Despite previous efforts to overhaul operations at veterans health facilities nationwide, VA Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday that the Congress needs to step in again to insure that veterans can swiftly get the medical care they need, and to insure that poor performing employees can be drummed out of the VA when necessary.
"Our accountability processes are clearly broken," Shulkin said in the White House Briefing Room, rattling off examples for reporters.
"We have to wait more than a month to fire a psychiatrist, who was caught on camera watching pornography, using his iPad while seeing a veteran," Shulkin added.
"Just last week, we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DUI and had served a 60 day jail sentence," the VA Secretary continued.
Shulkin outlined 13 areas of what he described as "significant risk" inside the VA, which he says must be addressed to improve overall medical care for veterans.
1. ACCESS - Still too many vets waiting too long for appointments
2. PAYING PROVIDERS - Takes too long to pay private sector doctors for VA services
3. COMMUNITY CARE - Too many health claims are getting rejected
4. QUALITY OF CARE - Still too many examples of health care troubles
5. DISABILITY CLAIMS - Takes too long to process claims by vets
6. IT - Old legacy systems contribute to excess wait times
7. CAPITAL ASSETS - VA needs $18 billion to fix facilities in disrepair
8. CONSTRUCTION - Red tape delaying needed VA construction projects
9. ACCOUNTABILITY - Need new laws from Congress to be able to fire poor performing VA workers
10. STAFFING - Takes way too long to find new nurses, doctors and other medical professionals
11. BUREAUCRACY - Using hiring freeze to try to reduce VA personnel overhead
12. WASTE, FRAUD & ABUSE - Need better systems to prevent loss of taxpayer dollars
13. VETERANS SUICIDE - Despite attention, too many vets taking their own lives
Next week, the Senate is taking up a bill that would give more power to the VA to get rid of workers.
"We need new accountability legislation, and we need that now," Shulkin said.