I am pleased to support the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act which would finally take steps to address the shameful delays in healthcare our heroes have been experiencing across the nation. As you know, tens of thousands of veteran patients have been waiting at least 90 days for appointments at VA medical facilities. Tragically, these wait time delays may have been responsible for the deaths of 58 veterans. While the full extent of this tragedy is still being investigated, it is important that we move swiftly to rectify the mismanagement and lack of accountability plaguing the VA system.
The Veterans' Access to Care Act would allow veterans greater access to healthcare outside the VA system that is failing them. The bill would also require reports from the VA and independent assessors as to how veterans are utilizing this new access and how the VA can improve its current and future health care capabilities. Finally, the bill would ban bonuses for all VA employees until 2016 and give the VA Secretary authority to fire failing executives.
Embarrassingly, mismanagement at the VA facility in Miami is emblematic of the overall failures of the VA system. My colleague Mario Diaz-Balart and I recently met with the Miami VA's Director and Chief of Staff and unfortunately, still have more questions and answers. We've had security lapses at our drug rehabilitation center which may have led to a veteran's death, reports of retaliation against whistleblowers, and long wait times of our own. All of this is in addition to the 2009 Miami VA scandal where botched colonoscopies may have exposed 2,500 of our veterans to disease.
I am ashamed and embarrassed by the way our veterans are being treated and am looking forward to the day when the VA can finally get its act together. We must stop the slow-walking, the lack of transparency, and work to fix these problems as soon as possible -- whether it's the embarrassing disability claim backlog, the absurd amounts of time our veterans are waiting for care, or the way VA officials attempt to shift blame for their failures. While the Veterans' Access to Care Act is a solid step forward to getting our veterans the first-class care they deserve, we as a nation can and must do more.