Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Reps. Mast, Allred, and Higgins Introduce Bill to Improve VA Facility Care
January 31, 2020
Washington, DC—Yesterday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), along with Reps. Brian Mast (FL-18), Colin Allred (TX-32), and Clay Higgins (LA-03) introduced H.R.5732, the Leadership Evaluation at Department of Veterans Affairs (LEAD VA) Act, a bipartisan bill directing a study of a Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs partnership program that would allow officers to lead VA facilities.
“Our veterans deserve the best care and service that our nation can provide. Unfortunately, that’s not what we have today. Veterans in Hawai‘i and across the country are still struggling to get the benefits they’ve earned through their service and sacrifice,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “We must look at creative solutions that will ensure our veterans get the VIP treatment they deserve. This bill will explore an innovative way to provide the experienced leadership to help improve the care of our brothers and sisters who’ve served.”
“It’s no secret that the Department of Veterans Affairs has been plagued by crisis over the years, and veterans across our country have suffered because of it. It’s time to take a hard look at the way VA medical centers are being run at the highest level and find new ways to improve them,” said Rep. Brian Mast. “At the end of the day, no one is better prepared to oversee veteran care than those who will one day be veterans themselves.”
“As a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I know how important it is that our VA facilities have good, quality leadership helping our veterans get the services they need,” said Rep. Colin Allred. “This bipartisan bill will make good progress on examining whether to enlist military officers to lead VA facilities and help our veterans.”
“Too often the VA’s own bureaucracies stand in the way of its mission to provide Veterans with timely, quality care. Our Veterans deserve better from the VA Medical Centers, and no one is better equipped to help our VA Medical Centers perform than senior officers in the Armed Forces,” said Rep. Clay Higgins. “Those officers, not VA bureaucrats, should have an active role in governing and improving VA Medical Centers. This is a model that deserves serious consideration, and I’m hopeful we can move forward in the interest of our Veterans.”
Background: H.R.5732, the Leadership Evaluation at Department of Veteran Affairs (LEAD VA) Act would direct the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to jointly conduct a study to determine the feasibility of establishing a pilot program under which the Secretaries assign officers of the Armed Forces in the grade of O-6 to serve as directors of medical centers of the Department of Veterans Affairs for a period of three years.
In Hawai‘i and across the country, veterans face lengthy wait times and slow turnaround to receive their care and treatment. The expertise of officers may help improve efficiency and accountability from the Department of Veterans Affairs and increase coordination with the Department of Defense. Meanwhile, this bill would provide an opportunity for the current generation of servicemembers to help care for those who served before them through the VA.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is a combat veteran of two Middle East deployments and has served in the National Guard now for almost 17 years. She is one of the first female combat veterans ever elected to congress. She is a member of multiple military veterans Congressional Caucuses and is a co-founder and co-leader of the Servicewomen and Women Veterans Caucus which was established last year.
She and Rep. Brian Mast have worked together previously on efforts to improve care for veterans and service members. Rep. Gabbard and Rep. Mast led a letter expressing concern regarding the proposed elimination of over 17,000 military medical personnel and the impact it would have on servicemembers as well as their families. Last Congress, they worked together to introduce the Fair Access to Insurance for Retired (FAIR) Heroes Act improve access to quality healthcare for disabled veterans. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also introduced H.R. 663, the Burn Pits Accountability Act, with Rep. Mast. In May, she wrote about the ongoing fight to track and report burn pit exposure so that veterans can get the care they need, urging Congress not to repeat the mistakes of our nation’s slow response to Agent Orange exposure. Her bill was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
In November, Rep. Gabbard introduced three bills to support healthcare benefits for our veterans and servicemembers and joined with Rep. Ross Spano (FL-15), to introduce H.R.5169, the TRICARE Fairness for National Guard and Reserve Retirees Act. The legislation would ensure that retired members of the National Guard and Reserve personnel and their dependents receive the health care benefits to which they are entitled.
Last Congress, she helped advance H.R.918, the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act which passed the House. She has also fought for the Deborah Sampson Act (H.R. 2452) to improve access and quality of care at the VA for female veterans and called for better care for servicewomen and women veterans.
About Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawai‘i’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for 16 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major. Learn more about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard...
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