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Miller, O’Rourke Support Commission on Care, Need for Reform

By John Cooper

Miller, O’Rourke Support Commission on Care, Need for Reform

Shaun Rieley contributed to this report. 

While the majority of Americans, and especially veterans, recognize the need to reform the VA and ensure our veterans receive the best care possible, in recent days some have attempted to argue that the VA is working perfectly and does not need reform.

This position is irresponsible, unfounded and reprehensible.

Last week, I and my colleague Shaun Rieley attended the meetings of the Commission on Care, the group of experts tasked by Congress with proposing reforms to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs’ ability to provide care. Staffed by experts like Toby Cosgrove, the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic; Darin Selnick, former VA special appointee; and Stewart Hickey, the former national executive director of AMVETS, the Commission is committed to proposing solutions to the problems at the VA.

During last week’s meetings, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) and House VA Committee Member Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) both offered their insight on the reform debate. While these two gentlemen come from different parties, they both agree that the VA needs true reform.

Miller made a compelling case that veterans need to have, and deserve to have, choice in making their care decisions. When challenged by Commission member Michael Blecker, who stated that veterans might “fall through the cracks” if allowed to use the private care system, Miller rejoined with the only possible answer: thousands of veterans have slipped through the cracks with the current VA system, while reforms offering choice would allow veterans, who know their own care needs better than any bureaucrat, would give them the liberty to make choices that keep them healthy.

O’Rourke was asked to speak in the wake of rolling out a plan in his district that would leverage community medical assets to help serve veterans. O’Rourke recounted how he had campaigned on a promise to secure a new full-service VA hospital for his district, but had reluctantly changed his mind about the advisability of such a project after witnessing the debacle the VA had made of the hospital construction in Denver.

O’Rourke explained to the Commission that leveraging the resources in the community might be more feasible and provide better care for veterans. In addition, it appeared to him that it was what veterans wanted – a notion confirmed by a poll of veterans in his district he commissioned last summer.

O’Rourke also noted that part of the problem with VA has been a severe lack of continuity in oversight due to an unwillingness of members to serve on the VA committees: it’s not glamorous, there are real problems to be addressed, and there are no “mission accomplished” banners.  Members tend to leave the committee as soon as they are able – to the point that, on day one as a new congressman assigned to the committee, he found himself third in seniority on the Democratic side.

Still, he acknowledged that there are those who are committed to ensuring that VA provides the best care possible to veterans, and to exploring other options when VA seems unable to meet the task, including, he said, Chairman Miller.

O’Rourke and Miller are serious, thoughtful representatives of their constituents, and the public trust. Their insistence on fighting for reform speaks volumes, and should silence the uninformed voices who not only resist any real reform of the VA, but deny that a crisis even exists.