WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) spoke from the Senate floor on Wednesday to thank his colleagues on behalf of Maryland’s 470,000 veterans for making veterans’ health care a priority by passing H.R. 3230/S.2450, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014. Senator Cardin lauded the work of Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders and Senator John McCain for developing this bipartisan agreement and “demonstrating to the Nation that the Congress can work together to meet our greatest challenges.”
Senator Cardin: “The reports coming out of the Veterans Administration (VA) showed a failure at the most fundamental level. This bill is an exceptional step in the right direction and will begin to address some of the concerns we all have, beginning with access to care. I support the effort to provide immediate authority to refer veterans to non-VA care and its provisions addressing common-sense long-term reform. Much of the treatment our veterans need is already provided in world-class facilities that are closer to their homes than the nearest VA Hospital, and they stand ready to support them today.
“A true marker of our Nation’s worth is our willingness to serve those who have served us. As we continue to wind down our commitments in Afghanistan after 13 years of war, we need to gear up our commitment to our veterans. Disability claims at the VA are continuing to take far too long to be processed, and the backlog is denying support to veterans who are in critical need due to service-related injuries. I will continue to push for an amendment that will make the Fully Developed Claims program permanent. This optional, new initiative offers veterans and survivors faster decisions from the VA on compensation, pension, and survivor benefit claims. Our veterans deserve every possible tool we can provide to help ease their transition to civilian life. I am committed to making sure that our veterans receive the services and benefits they have earned and the support they were promised and deserve.
“I am concerned that the expedited firing provision in this bill for Senior Executive Service employees creates a separate process for VA staff employee. Let me be clear: anyone guilty of fraud, malfeasance, or criminal negligence must be held accountable. But current law and Office of Personnel Management policy provide measures to address such acts. Federal employees deserve the appropriate due process.”
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