Cruz Co-Sponsors Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Veterans’ Access to Timely Care

CORNYN-NELSON VETERANS’ HEALTH CARE INTEGRITY ACT ENSURES THE VA WILL COMPLY WITH GUIDELINES FOR APPOINTMENT SCHEDULING

Yesterday I joined Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in introducing legislation to improve veterans' access to timely health care. The Veterans' Health Care Integrity Act would ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) complies with its own veteran health care appointment scheduling policies by making annual certification a statutory requirement.

I am proud to join with Senator Cornyn on a critical piece of legislation that will benefit veterans all across Texas and our nation. For far too long, our veterans have been victimized by a bureaucracy that prioritizes the bonuses and awards of senior executives over the needs of their patients. This bill is another key step towards enforcing accountability across the department, while taking steps to ensure that the health and welfare of the brave men and women who sacrificed so much on our behalf will be under the watchful eye of qualified leadership. Decisive action to change the landscape of VA is well past due, and with a supportive administration and the capable leadership of Secretary Shulkin, I am encouraged by the opportunities we have to implement effective, lasting reforms.

"Our veterans and their families were asked to respond immediately when their nation called, yet the VA system makes them stand in line when it comes to their health needs," Sen. Cornyn said. "This legislation will strengthen congressional oversight of the VA and promote greater accountability at VA facilities across Texas to make sure veterans receive the quality care they deserve in a timely manner."

The Veterans' Health Care Integrity Act would require each VA medical center director to annually certify compliance with the scheduling directive enacted in 2016 which provides explicit guidelines and timetables for appointment scheduling in the Veterans Health Administration. Should the facility be unable to certify compliance with the directive, or any subsequent directives, the facility Director must submit to the VA Secretary explaining why to be included in the annual report submitted to the House and Senate VA Committees that list compliant and non-compliant facilities. The legislation would also prohibit the VA from waiving this certification requirement at any point in the future.

Additionally, the legislation strengthens accountability mechanisms to ensure facility directors and other senior VA officials are focused on delivering timely service to veterans by forbidding VA Medical Center Directors, Chiefs of Staff, Associate Directors, Associate Directors for Patient Care, and Deputy Chiefs of Staff from receiving awards or bonuses if their facility fail to certify compliance. The Veterans' Health Care Integrity Act would also make six additional senior VA positions subject to Senate confirmation.

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