Bipartisan bill puts pressure on VA executives to meet veteran health care goals
Washington, DC—U.S. Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Frank Guinta (NH-01) introduced the Veterans Administration Bonus Elimination Act to help ensure timely delivery of care to U.S. military veterans. The bill denies bonuses to senior Veterans Administration (VA) executives, who fail to ensure that veterans receive care within 30 days, as required under VA guidelines.
“It is unconscionable that senior VA officials are rewarded with bonuses, while hundreds of thousands of veterans across the country are still facing major delays in receiving the care that they need and have earned,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Even after the VA scandal in 2014, veteran wait times have increased. In October 2015, the VA said there were nearly 500,000 veterans who were waiting over 30 days to receive care. The fact that the systemic problems within the VA that created this situation continue to persist is deeply troublesome. Those who are responsible for ensuring our nation's veterans get the care and services they need should be held accountable, not rewarded for their malpractice. This bill is a step forward in repairing our veterans’ trust.”
“Bonuses should be rewards for quality work, completed on time, but revelations of secret waiting lists and subpar care tell a different story about some VA facilities,” said Rep. Frank Guinta. “Even after a nationwide scandal and legislation to fix the problem, securing an appointment remains difficult. The bureaucracy only reluctantly embraces reform. Our bill puts pressure on the VA to meet reasonable goals that Congress instituted by law. We should show the same commitment to U.S. military veterans that they have shown our country.”
According to VA guidelines, veterans should wait no longer than 30 days for a medical appointment. In 2014, whistleblowers at several VA hospitals revealed that employees often manipulated waiting list data to collect performance bonuses. An internal audit found that over 120,000 vets waited at least 90 days, even after the scandal broke. In Hawai'i, veterans experienced the longest wait times in the country, averaging 145 days – almost five months – for a simple primary care visit. That same year, the VA paid $142 million in bonuses
, ranging from $500 to $13,000, to employees.
As these VA crises unfolded in 2014, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Access to Care and Treatment (ACT) Now for Veterans Act
to allow veterans to get immediate care from non-VA medical providers. The congresswoman’s legislation was ultimately included in the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which was signed into law that same year.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is a major in the Hawai'i Army National Guard and a veteran of two Middle East deployments. She is a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees. Rep. Guinta, Manchester, New Hampshire’s former two-term mayor, is a member of the House Financial Services Committee.