Congress doesn’t lack for solutions after VA problems hit the news

Jun 17, 2014, 12:26 PM | Updated: 12:26 pm

WASHINGTON — AMVETS spokesman David Gai said his organization is hoping for one comprehensive reform bill to fix problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

But choosing just one could be difficult, considering the dozens of bills that members of Congress have introduced recently on the issue.

“While there are varying ideas and legislation being brought forth to try and solve the VA problems we hope that they will be consolidated into a comprehensive bill in the Senate and House,” Gai said in an email.

Since the VA scandal first broke in to the headlines in April, Congress has introduced at least 28 bills related to the Veterans Affairs system. House and Senate committees dealing with veterans affairs have held a total of nine hearings since then, with more scheduled this week.

The rush to introduce VA bills started after allegations of lapses in patient care at the Phoenix VA, and bogus waiting lists that made the department’s performance appear better than it actually was while vets went unserved. A subsequent inspector general‘s investigation showed similar problems with care nationwide.

William Kling, a professor of public policy at the University of Illinois Chicago, said that sometimes Congress needs a crisis to spark action. Many times, legislation is reactive as opposed to proactive, Kling said.

“I see this kind of veterans thing as being more reactive, based on some of the recent events that have occurred,” he said. “The timing of it is really as a result of some of the stuff that’s been happening.”

Kling said that this kind of reform has been a long time coming.

“There have been many issues about veterans’ health administration, veterans’ administration and how veterans are being treated in their health care system,” he said. “There have been several issues that have been percolating for a long time. So I think there was a lot of reform in the air, as it were.”

Former Capitol Hill staffer Jeff Urbanchuk said in an email that the flood of VA legislation is not unexpected as “members are introducing their bills to get some attention.”

“Submitting a piece of legislation shows your constituents that you are taking a stand in the VA issue and builds goodwill back home,” the email said.

Urbanchuk, who is an account manager at Stanton Communications, said that the upcoming midterm elections might also contribute to the sheer number of bills being introduced.

“Everything now is hyper-political and every issue will be used for maximum gain,” Urbanchuk said.

But Kling said the recent frenzy surrounding the problems at the VA is also a way for members of Congress to bring back bills that may have failed before.

“If you go back and look, a lot of what’s been being introduced has probably been introduced the last couple of sessions, just has never gotten through the process,” he said.

Gai said that some of the recommendations now under consideration had been proposed by AMVETS more than a year ago. Whatever the timing, Gai hopes that Congress is able to act.

“Overall, our focus is on viable solutions that make sense and ensure the quality care for veterans,” his email said.

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Congress doesn’t lack for solutions after VA problems hit the news