Sen. Tom Coburn, a physician and three-time cancer survivor, says he knows firsthand “how frustrating the wait to see a doctor can be.”
That’s why, the Republican from Oklahoma says, President Barack Obama should nominate a new Veterans Affairs secretary with the “management skills, leadership ability and determination” to fix the problems at the scandal-plagued department.
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Likening the VA to a “bureaucratic maze,” Coburn says veterans are suffering to receive care in a timely manner. He cites the three-month long wait times for some veterans, revealed in a recently released VA audit, as an example of the department’s dysfunction. “It screams of government incompetency.”
“In the last four years, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has held just a handful of hearings touching on veterans’ health,” Coburn said in a GOP weekly address. “This committee’s only responsibility is to ensure veterans are being taken care of and it has failed to do its job.”
Over the past seven months, CNN has reported on the problems at the VA, including managers across the country that have been using secret waiting lists to cover up how long it actually takes for some veterans to get appointments at VA medical facilities. In light of the reports, and the VA audit that echoes many of their findings, Coburn says Congress should pass legislation to make every hospital a VA hospital.
“If a VA center is inconveniently located, veterans should be free to choose another doctor,” Coburn said. “VA hospitals serve an important and unique role but veterans should be allowed to choose where, when and from whom they receive treatment ... If a VA center is inconveniently located, veterans should be free to choose another doctor.”
Despite his frustration, Coburn cites the recent passage of a VA bill in the Senate as a step in the right direction. Noting the provision in the bill which would allow veterans to receive care at hospitals closer to home, or otherwise see a doctor outside of the VA, Coburn says, “Bureaucrats would no longer override veterans’ choices.”