New VA reform bill includes patients’ bill of rights

New VA reform bill includes patients’ bill of rights

When it comes to the Congress, there may be no such thing as too much VA reform.

New VA reform bill introduces veterans' bill of rights

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) will introduce the Veteran Health Administration Management Improvement Act. (Photo by Ronald Woan via Flickr)

Just a little over one month since the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act was signed into law and designed to combat the wait times scheduling crisis affecting veterans’ health care at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) has announced he will introduce another reform bill.

Kilmer’s bill, the Veterans Health Administration Improvement Act, is intended to “address and change the underlying culture that caused manipulated wait times and coverups.”

Beginning with the Phoenix VA Health Care System, a whistleblower alleged 40 veterans had died as a result of an inability to access appointments. The allegation uncovered scheduling abuses and coverups by VA managers and employees nationwide.

“When the news emerged about the manipulated wait times and mismanagement, it became clear that systemic reforms are needed to improve the delivery of care to our veterans,” Kilmer said in a statement. “My legislation crates a veterans bill of rights, so that the VA will have an enforceable, legal obligation to provide quality care for those who served. It also makes other important reforms to increase oversight and improve management at the VA.”

Kilmer represents 25,000 active duty and reserve service members, along with 50,000 veterans and their family members in Washington state’s 6th Congressional District.

AMVETS and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) have endorsed the legislation.

The Veterans Health Administration Improvement Act would:

  • Direct the GAO to conduct a study to determine what management problems exist at the VA, and establish a pilot program to prove an opportunity for management to improve.
  • Establish a VHA Management and Accountability Ombudsman to provide a safe avenue for employees to report issues they observe. The ombudsman would be responsible for keeping the Secretary of Veterans Affairs appraised of employee concerns.
  • Establish a veterans’ bill of rights to create basic rights for VHA beneficiaries so that veterans have a clear sense of what to they are entitled to receive from their health care.