Working to Find Solutions For Our Veterans
Last week, I went to the valley and made the drive many of our veterans are forced to make to get treatment in Harlingen. I wasn’t there for a VA Appointment, I was there to see VA Secretary Robert McDonald and hold him accountable for the VA failing our veterans. I chided him about the long wait times patients face, the shortage of doctors in this region and how difficult it is for veterans to see private sector doctors because the VA is so slow in paying doctors. I also told him it was unacceptable that 70% of the work my red tape cutters do is helping people with their problems with the VA.
The Secretary acknowledged some problems and even admitted one of the main computer programs the VA relies on is written in COBAL, a programming language used on mainframes in the 1970’s. Congress has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for VA automation, but they can’t seem to get modern information technology systems rolled out.
He also said that the increase in workload at the VA is not so much driven by the number of veterans coming out of the service now after Iraq and Afghanistan but an overall aging of the veteran population. He suggested this is an early warning sign of healthcare issues the civilian population may soon start experiencing. This is a warning I have taken to heart and will be re-doubling my efforts both to help with veterans healthcare issues, and to find better healthcare solutions for all Americans.
The trip also included listening sessions with county veterans service officers, veterans, and doctors.
Senator John Cornyn, Gov. Greg Abbott and three other Members of Congress and I also visited with middle and high school students on a special track to become physicians at UT Rio Grande Valley, nurses, and medical students. I also traveled to the beautiful new Veteran’s War Memorial of Texas in McAllen and met Col. Frank Plummer, the force behind the memorial and many local veterans