Sen. Mike Johanns says veterans dissatisfied with the health care provided by the Veterans Administration should be allowed to seek care in the private sector.
Johanns, a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, says the committee has been enormously generous to the VA’s budget requests in the past.
“The VA would come in and say, ‘We need more money’ and we would send them out the door with the money they requested,” according to Johanns. “Then, all of these problems develop. We find a federal department that literally is lying to people, creating false waiting lists and people are on a real waiting list and dying before they receive treatments.”
Criticism of the Department of Veterans Affairs became widespread after a former VA employee alleged that the Phoenix VA Health Care System falsified records to make it appear that patients had much shorter wait times than they actually faced. A VA inspector general report disclosed several VA hospitals throughout the country followed the same practice.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned over the allegations.
Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson recently appeared before the Veterans Affairs Committee to ask for an additional $17.6 billion over a three-year period to add 10,000 doctors, nurses and other staff members.
The VA budget has been on a steady rise. Once at slightly under $80 billion in 2005, it now stands at $152.7 billion. The budget for veteran medical care is $54.6 billion.
Johanns says the solution the VA proposes to fix its problems is more money, more staff, and more time.
“What I think they really need is competition,” Johanns asserts. “If the VA can’t get the job done, when it comes to veterans’ health care needs, in my judgment, our veterans who have fought for our freedoms should have freedoms of their own. They should be free to get the care that they choose from private doctors.”
Johanns supports a measure that would allow veterans to seek health care in the private sector.
“At the end of the day, if the veteran is happy with the care offered by the VA, great, I’m all for that,” Johanns says. “But if the VA fails, then our veterans shouldn’t pay the price.”
Johanns says that if the veterans choose to leave, it will send a real message to the VA.
President Barack Obama has nominated former Procter & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald to become the new VA Secretary.
AUDIO: Sen. Mike Johanns discusses Veterans Administration problems and a proposed solution. [2:45]