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Letter to The Honorable Gordon H. Mansfield, Acting Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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Location: Washington, DC


Letter to The Honorable Gordon H. Mansfield, Acting Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Senator Clinton Calls on VA to Explain and Rectify Delays in Care for Wounded Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans

Underscores Need for Permanent Leadership at the VA

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton today called on the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) to explain and rectify reported delays in care for wounded veterans. According to news reports, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, including those needing critical care, are suffering long wait times for medical appointments at VA facilities. As the White House has not yet named a Veterans Secretary Designate, Senator Clinton today asked Acting Secretary of VA Gordon Mansfield to clarify the situation and identify actions being taken to reduce these delays.

"It is our solemn responsibility to ensure that our nation's veterans receive the best possible health care, delivered in a timely fashion," Senator Clinton wrote. "Those who have sacrificed so much deserve our deepest appreciation and respect, but they also deserve and should expect our best care and support when seeking treatment at VA facilities."

In sending the letter, Senator Clinton underscored the need for permanent leadership at the VA. "The problems at the VA demonstrate the urgency of filling the position of VA secretary as soon as possible. I urge the White House to nominate a suitable candidate for the Department of Veterans Affairs as soon as possible," Senator Clinton said.

As New York's first Senator to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Clinton has made it one of her top priorities to ensure that our brave men and women in uniform and their families have the healthcare and support they need, most recently securing a series of measures in the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act approved unanimously by the Senate. Senator Clinton also has introduced legislation approved by Congress to extend family and medical leave to six months for families of wounded servicemembers, implementing a key recommendation of the Dole-Shalala Commission on the Care for Wounded Warriors.

The following is the text of Senator Clinton's letter to Acting Secretary Mansfield.

October 22, 2007

The Honorable Gordon H. Mansfield
Acting Secretary
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20420

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I write to you with great concern regarding recent reports that a significant number of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are having to endure long waiting times for medical appointments at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities. According to these reports, the problem is particularly acute for veterans requiring critical care. For instance, waiting times for 24% of appointments for traumatic brain injury (TBI) care reportedly exceeded 30 days. It is our solemn responsibility to ensure that our nation's veterans receive the best possible health care, delivered in a timely fashion. I hope that you can clarify whether these reported delays are in fact occurring for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and if so, identify what actions are being taken to reduce waiting times.

This news is particularly disturbing in light of a September VA Inspector General report that concluded that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) had understated waiting times for medical appointments for veterans of all eras. According to the Inspector General's report, 25% of the veterans whose cases were reviewed had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment. Further, the report concluded that five of the eight recommendations made by the Inspector General in July 2005 - recommendations that were intended to address the VHA's underreporting of waiting times and to increase the speed with which veterans receive care - have not been implemented.

Those who have sacrificed so much deserve our deepest appreciation and respect, but they also deserve and should expect our best care and support when seeking treatment at VA facilities. Again, I hope that you can clarify whether the reported delays are in fact occurring, what actions are being taken to reduce waiting times, and the status of implementation of the Inspector General's July 2005 recommendations on this issue.

Thank you for your consideration of my concerns on this extremely important matter. I look forward to continuing to work with you in support of all our nation's veterans.

Sincerely yours,
Hillary Rodham Clinton

cc: Josh Bolten, White House Chief of Staff


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