Last Modified: Sunday, August 03, 2014 8:27 PM
Lake Charles and Lafayette wouldn’t have had quick approval of new veterans clinics if there hadn’t been a scandal at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Congress, true to form, always waits until the last minute — or after the fact — to do those things its members were elected to do.
Highway funding is another example of congressional foot-dragging. The Wall Street Journal said passage of a House bill by the Senate transferred $10.8 billion into the highway trust fund “hours before the government was set to cut payments to states.” The newspaper said the funding will last until May, “well beyond the November elections.”
Problems at the U.S.-Mexico border weren’t so lucky. House Republicans passed a $700 million border crisis bill Friday, but the Senate was already in its summer recess.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., sparked action on the VA’s problems. He told CNN back in June that more than 1,000 veterans may have died over the last decade because of malpractice or lack of care from the VA.
Problems listed in the Coburn report include fraudulent scheduling practices, budget mismanagement, insufficient oversight and lack of accountability. Military.com last week added to the list. It talked about a backlog in disability claims, delays in adopting electronic health records and other technological obstacles.
The end result of the scandal was passage of a $16.3 billion compromise bill. The measure contains $10 billion for the “Veterans Choice Fund, which will enable veterans to see a private doctor if they can’t get prompt appointments at VA hospitals and clinics or live more than 40 miles from either one.
Another $5 billion will be used to hire more VA doctors, nurses and other medical personnel. The final $1.3 billion will make it possible to open 27 new VA clinics, including those at Lake Charles and Lafayette.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill. However, National Journal said passage of the legislation doesn’t mean veterans’ problems are over. The political magazine said “other veterans legislation remains stubbornly stuck in the halls of Congress.” Those measures deal with military suicides, disability claims and electronic records.
Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., the first Iraq veteran elected to the Senate, has a bill that would expand veterans’ eligibility to enroll in VA health care from 5 to 15 years after leaving the military. National Journal said the goal is to realize that some veterans have a delayed reaction to trauma.
Rep. Timothy Walz, D-Minn., has legislation that would offer incentives to encourage more mental-health officials to work for the VA. It would also require annual reports from the VA and Pentagon on their mental-health and suicide-prevention programs. More than 8,000 veterans commit suicide every year, the VA said. That is 22 per day.
One of the problems mentioned by the magazine is the inability of the VA and Pentagon to work together to set up electronic health records. It said disability claims are routinely put on hold as VA staffers wait to get service records from the Pentagon, which are needed to help determine if an injury is service related.
How bad is it? National Journal said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., has introduced legislation to allow the VA and Pentagon to offer up to $50 million to someone who can develop a nationwide, fully integrated electronic health-records program. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., wants veterans to be able to download their medical records 180 days after passage of a bill he is sponsoring.
Unfortunately, these bills and others may have to wait years before enactment and some of them may never see the light of day.
A scandal got results for American veterans, and November’s congressional elections spurred action on highway funding. A border solution is a definite longshot.
The Associated Press said the inability to pass an immigration bill “was an embarrassment for the new GOP leadership.” And that team includes Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, the party’s whip and No. 3 man on the leadership team.
Members of that team issued a statement that put the blame on President Obama. It talked about his “refusal to faithfully execute our laws.”
“... There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children (coming to this country from Central America) are returned swiftly and safely to their countries,” the statement said.
Obama fired right back, saying Republicans were trying to pass an extreme and unworkable version of an immigration bill. He said they weren’t even trying to solve the problem and knew their proposal wasn’t going anywhere. Meanwhile, he said he will have to make tough choices about immigration challenges on his own.
You can see why the immigration issue has stalled.
The AP said, “The gridlock on the border crisis reflected the past 18 months of a divided Congress that has little legislation to show for its days in Washington but plenty of abysmal public approval numbers.”
Veterans got some relief, and the states got their highway money. Everyone else will apparently have to wait for another scandal or a pending election to get anything out of Congress.
Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 337-515-8871 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted By: Tonya Nelms On: 8/8/2014
Title: Tonya Nelms
My husband has tore his knee over a month ago and we can not get help with the VA in Atlanta until Sept. 25. He needs surgery and has other health issues. I need help for him. I don't know where to go because they are not helping in Atlanta Ga.
Posted By: Freeky Fried On: 8/4/2014
Title: Clinics benefit, veterans don't
These CBOCs (Community Based Outpatient Clinics) are often no more than Bandaids to vets who are then referred to the main hospital for treatment.
They give a local presence but may actually do more to delay the veteran's care than dispense it.
How many billions are funneled to organized crime thru ontracts and other means from the VA?
Why is the union silent? (AFGE = AFL-CIO)
SHUT IT DOWN!