Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Calls on Congress to Stay in Washington Until VA Reform Passes

July 25, 2014
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today joined her colleagues in a letter to call on congressional leaders to keep Congress in session until it passes a Veterans Affairs (VA) health reform bill. The House and Senate have each passed different versions of legislation, and the bill has since been stalled in a conference committee.
“Veterans have waited too long for basic medical care.  They shouldn’t have to wait another day for government bureaucrats to take action, or for Congress to set aside partisan bickering,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a twice-deployed combat veteran. “Congress shouldn’t leave Washington next week if VA health reform legislation is not passed.  There’s no excuse for continued inaction.  This legislation will be one step forward in the process of comprehensively overhauling the VA. In the meantime, veterans need to be able to access healthcare from non-VA providers in their communities immediately. My bipartisan ACT Now for Veterans legislation would cut the red tape and allow veterans to get care now. We have clear solutions in Congress that would address the VA’s short-term and long-term challenges – it’s long past time to act on them.”
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard last week introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow veterans to immediately seek care outside the VA system, with the assurance that the VA will cover the bill. The ACT Now for Veterans bill (H.R. 5131) will ensure veterans get off unacceptably long wait lists and schedule a medical appointment immediately. The bill will not require veterans to get VA pre-approval before seeking outside care, a bureaucratic obstacle included in the VA health reform bill.
The full text of the letter to congressional leaders is available here and below:
July 25, 2014
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Boehner,
We, the undersigned Members of Congress, urge you to not let the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives go out of session prior to a successful resolution to the Conference Committee that was formed to work out a compromise between the Senate and House versions of the Veterans’ Access to Care Act, and its subsequent passage in both chambers of Congress.
The health of the veterans who have served us so bravely should not be placed on the back burner while Congress is away during the August district work period. Our veterans have served the nation with honor, and we owe it to them to waste no more time in ensuring they have access to the best health care possible. In light of recent serious complications and allegations of wrong-doing within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in addition to validated long wait times at VA medical facilities, it is extremely urgent that a fix be put into place as soon as possible.
Both the Senate and House versions would expand veterans’ ability to seek care at non-VA facilities under certain conditions, strengthen Congress’ oversight of the VA and eliminate performance-related bonuses for VA employees. We need to address the overwhelmed VA and ensure all veterans get the care they have earned through their service to our country. Our veterans deserve nothing but the very best.
Again, this issue is far too serious to wait, and we encourage a swift resolution to be found by remaining in session until a suitable compromise bill can be passed out of both chambers. Let’s put our nations’ veterans, who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms, first.

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