U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today praised the passage of the comprehensive, bipartisan conference report to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill includes a provision that will allow the Tulsa Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) to pursue a new facility to better serve local veterans' growing health care needs. The bill passed the Senate by a 91 to 3 vote.
"The systemic problems that plagued the VA are disheartening and must be rooted out," said Inhofe. "Our nation has asked our all-volunteer force to fight and protect the interests of the United States, which has left millions of men and women in uniform with visible and invisible scars of service. When our sons and daughters enlisted, they answered an unwavering "yes' to every request asked of them by their country. The United States promised to care for them in return. Congress took an important step towards reforming an overburdened and unnecessarily bureaucratic agency today while improving the quality of health care our veterans have rightfully earned and deserve. Funding in this bill will help to provide 27 clinics with needed resources to expand or build facilities, including the Tulsa Community Based Outpatient Clinic. For veterans who run into trouble accessing care from the VA, they will have the option to seek care from non-VA providers for up to three years while the department works to reduce wait times. The legislation also includes language from a bill I supported in the Senate that will empower the VA Secretary with the ability to clean house and quickly remove employees contributing to the current environment of fraud, mismanagement, and neglect. We cannot understate the importance these reforms will have on correcting the culture of waste and abuse that has plagued the VA for decades. The Veterans reform bill passed by Congress today is not an end-all solution to fixing the department. It will take ongoing oversight of each facility across the nation. This year alone, my office has opened 800 cases of Oklahoma veterans needing help with the VA, and I strongly urge our veterans to continue contacting my office so that together we can push for further necessary reforms to improve the system as a whole."
On June 5, the Veterans Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act (S. 2450) was announced. The bill adopted a U.S. House of Representatives-passed provision that allowed the VA to enter into 27 new lease agreements for clinics, but the Senate version included only 26 clinics, neglecting the Tulsa CBOC. On June 6, Inhofe toured the Tulsa clinic to see first-hand the urgent need for additional space to serve Oklahoma's veterans. On June 11, Inhofe voted in favor of S. 2450 and promised to fight for the needed funding for the Tulsa clinic during the House and Senate conference of the bill. On Monday, the House and Senate compromise was announced and included the necessary funding for the Tulsa CBOC to pursue a new facility in order to keep its doors open beyond 2020.
Inhofe was a cosponsored of the following bills that were included in the final language of the VA reform bill:
Veterans Choice Act, S.2424: the legislation would give veterans the ability to receive care from a non-VA provider that is participating in the Medicare program; enforces transparency on wait-times; and tightens accountability on VA operations.
GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act, S.257: the legislation would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to disapprove courses of education provided by public institutions of higher education that do not charge tuition and fees for veterans at the same rate that is charged for in-state residents, regardless of the veteran's state of residence.
Department of VA Management Accountability Act, S. 2013: the legislation would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to remove any employee of the VA from a Senior Executive Service position upon determining such individual's performance warrants removal.
Department of Veterans Affairs Major Medical Facility Lease Authorization Act, S.1740: the legislation would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out 27 major medical facility leases in 19 states.