Day in and day out, I hear from veterans in Eastern Washington that need help navigating and getting in touch with the VA. This is unacceptable. The way we show our gratitude to those who have served is by making sure they get the care they need when the time comes. The VA Department exists for one purpose: its sole mission is to serve our veterans. And across the country, with long wait times and unacceptable care, it’s clear the VA has become disconnected from that mission.
A few weeks ago, I sat down with widows of veterans in Eastern Washington, and they told me about their struggles with the current VA system and what they’re put through when their loved ones die. Their loved ones sacrificed for our country, yet when they pass away, their families are denied the benefits that they have earned. I’m working with the community to continue providing support to these widows and help them receive the care and benefits they deserve.
Last week, I was pleased to vote for three bills that the House passed supporting our veterans and their rights.
First, H.R. 1367, introduced by Rep. Brad Wenstrup, improves the authority of the Secretary of the VA to hire and retain physicians and other employees at the Department. This legislation establishes staffing, recruitment, and retention programs to enable the VA to recruit and keep the strongest workforce possible. Unfortunately, those who suffer the most under the VA’s inability to retain physicians are the veterans. This legislation is necessary to ensure that our veterans are receiving the best quality care from the best providers.
The Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act (H.R. 1181), introduced by Rep. Phil Roe, protects the 2nd Amendment rights of our veterans. Under current law, if a veteran is appointed a fiduciary from the VA Department, they are labeled “mentally incompetent” in the VA’s system, and the Department automatically sends the veteran’s name to the FBI’s National Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Inclusion on the NICS list can prohibit the veteran from legally purchasing or owning a firearm. It’s unacceptable that the constitutional rights of our nation’s heroes are unjustly denied. This commonsense legislation fixes that wrong and ensures that no veteran’s constitutional rights are violated due to federal government overreach.
Finally, the House passed the VA Accountability First Act (H.R. 1259). This legislation gives the Secretary of the VA the authority to demote, suspend, or remove employees who have engaged in misconduct or have not treated veterans properly. If you are involved in misconduct, you should not get a pay raise or a bonus. If you are a whistleblower, you should be protected. And if you are the Secretary of the VA, you should have the flexibility to hold staff accountable when they aren’t doing their jobs, or worse, are neglecting our veterans. I took to the House floor on Thursday to speak about the importance of this legislation to Eastern Washington, and to our country. You can see my remarks here:
I’m working hard to ensure that the VA provides the best possible care for our veterans. At the end of last year, a bill that I introduced with Representative Seth Moulton (D-MA), the Faster Care for Veterans Act, was signed into law. This law requires the VA to use already available technology so that our veterans have the ability to self-schedule appointments online. The Faster Care for Veterans Act provides veterans with more choice, and I look forward to working with the VA in ensuring the timely implementation of this law.
As a grateful nation, we owe it to our veterans to deliver them the care they need and have earned. I will continue to keep you up-to-date on my work serving our nation’s heroes.