12.20.17

President Signs Enhancing Veterans Care Act Into Law

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) praised the president for signing into law the Enhancing Veterans Care Act (S.1266) today. Sen. Inhofe, Sen. Lankford and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-02), authored this legislation to provide greater accountability and allow independent oversight at Veterans Affairs facilities. 

“Unfortunately, the VA hasn’t always met the standard of healthcare and patient care that our veterans deserve,” said Lankford. “Most of the administration and staff at our VA’s hospitals work incredibly hard to take care of people, but the VA system does not give local leaders the authority to quickly respond when someone does not meet the VA standard. The Enhancing Veteran Care Act is designed to give local senior officials at the VA regional level the tools to hold people accountable if they do not provide the quality care our veterans deserve.  I’m glad the President has signed this bill into law to bring the VA in line with the expectations of our veterans and fellow Oklahomans.”

“Two years ago this week, a front page story in USA Today outlined problems in Oklahoma’s VA facilities,” said Inhofe. “I immediately got to work, fighting to ensure that our VA facilities are held to the highest standards of care. I identified three key reforms I wanted to address: provide authority for VA directors to fire poorly performing employees, extend the Veterans Choice program, and allow independent, third-party oversight at VA facilities. Today, with the president’s signature, we have now enacted each of those reforms into law.”

Inhofe continued, “As a strong, outspoken advocate for our nation’s veterans, I appreciate President Trump’s leadership as we work together to provide our veterans with the highest level of care—they deserve no less. Our reforms have already improved patient care for our veterans, but we’re not done yet. In the coming weeks, I will work with our VA directors in Oklahoma City and Muskogee to identify our next set of priorities to ensure that Oklahoma leads the nation in veterans care.”

Background:

  • On Nov. 30, 2015, VISN 19 sent two teams to investigate operations at the Muskogee VA center, one that looked at quality of care and the other that looked at management of the facility. Their visits resulted in the immediate shut down of intermediate surgeries at the Muskogee facility due to issues that were discovered. It also prompted the removal of the facility’s Chief of Staff on Feb. 9, who was temporarily reassigned until the completion of VA’s review of VISN 19’s report.
  • On Dec. 23, 2015, Inhofe contacted VISN 19 Network Director Ralph Gigliotti and requested his personal assistance in ensuring proper care is provided to the five veterans identified in the Dec. 23, 2015, USA Today article.
  • In January 2016, Inhofe requested that the VA IG visit Oklahoma VA facilities with a third party entity since past VA IG reports had not indicated any problems in Oklahoma’s VA facilities. This request was denied.
  • On Feb 1, 2016, Inhofe placed a hold on the Veterans Affairs Inspector General nominee until the VA agreed to send an outside entity to investigate Oklahoma’s VA facilities.
  • On Feb. 12, 2016, Inhofe and Lankford introduced S. 2554, the Veterans Affairs Accountability Act, which would give authority to the Secretary of the VA to remove or demote a VA employee based on performance or misconduct and allow independent, third party oversight at VA facilities.
  • On Feb. 23, 2017, Sen. Inhofe announced on the Senate floor that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has committed in writing to conduct investigations of Oklahoma’s VA hospitals in coordination with an outside entity, a condition made by Inhofe prior to allowing confirmation of the VA Inspector General nominee.
  • On June 23, 2017, President Trump signed S. 1094 the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law. This bill gives greater authority to VA directors to fire poorly performing employees. This legislation contained portions of S.2554, which Inhofe introduced the previous year.
  • On July 10, 2017 the VA IG released a report following an investigation of the Muskogee VA that was done in conjunction with a third party, the Joint Commission. The report provided over 20 recommendations to improve the facility and care provided, which Director Mark Morgan committed to implementing.
  • On August 14, 2017, President Trump signed S.114, to extend the Veterans Choice Program.
  • On November 2, 2017 the VA IG released a report following an investigation of the Oklahoma City VA that was done in conjunction with a third party, the Joint Commission. The report provided over 20 recommendations to improve the facility and care provided, which Director Wade Vlosich committed to implementing.

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