Q: Why do you conduct oversight of Veterans Affairs (VA)?
A: I regularly conduct pro-active and vigorous congressional oversight of the executive branch of government on behalf of taxpayers and beneficiaries of federal programs, including veterans. I recently received an internal memo from the Department of Veterans Affairs which stated that the wrong filter was used last year in dialysis machines at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. That accident put at risk 83 patients, and maybe more, who were treated using the machines because they were possibly exposed to infectious diseases such as hepatitis or HIV. What's more, I'm told that the VA has known about this for months but has yet to inform all of the possibly infected patients at the VA's Palo Alto Health Care System about the situation. It's of great concern that America's current and former service members who rely on the VA's facilities would receive this kind of treatment. They deserve better. It's even more troubling that this isn't the first incident of contaminated equipment being used in the VA health system. Both in April 2006 and February 2009, it was reported that service members might have been put in harm's way when contaminated equipment possibly exposed them to infectious body fluids or agents. The VA needs to hold those responsible accountable and do what's necessary to prevent a repeat of incidents like these.
Q: How else are you working in the U.S. Senate to help veterans?
A: Veterans have risked their lives to protect the American way of life and to help preserve freedom around the world. The burden placed on service members often takes a major physical and emotional toll on both the service members and their families. Veterans need proper care to deal with the wounds they have received in our defense. I've continued to work in the U.S. Senate to improve treatment and care for veterans suffering from mental injuries like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury resulting from service in combat zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm working to protect service members with PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury from being discharged unfairly and losing benefits. A bill I cosponsored providing training and funding to family members who take care of injured veterans full-time has now become law. I also worked with the Iowa delegation to enact the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act. And, I won a commitment from the federal government to put a greater focus on hiring veterans. My record of support for those who have served our country was recognized with the American Legion's 2009 National Commander's Distinguished Public Service Award. Through my work with legislation in the U.S. Senate and my constitutional duty to perform government oversight, I will keep fighting to make sure our service members and veterans receive fair, timely and appropriate treatment from the federal government.