On May 16, the House of Representatives passed a full repeal of president's Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." I was among the 229 House Members to vote to completely dismantle the controversial law, which is already leading to increased health care costs and creating uncertainty among many small businesses.
The Affordable Care Act is turning out to be anything but affordable for many individuals buying coverage as well as small businesses trying to comply with the health care law's costly mandates. I opposed Obamacare when it originally passed the House and I continue to oppose it today because it massively expands the reach of the federal government while failing to achieve its promised goal of lowering health care costs.
In recent weeks, even some of Obamacare's initial supporters have admitted the health care law could become a "train wreck". As we get closer to its implementation, it is increasingly clear that nothing short of outright repeal of Obamacare will prevent it from doing harm to our health care system and stifling job growth.
I am particularly disturbed over the Obama administration's efforts to go around Congress, including reports of HHS Secretary Sebelius soliciting donations from health care executives and community and church groups to implement Obamcare. On the same day I voted to repeal Obamacare, I wrote a letter to Secretary Sebelius asking for an accounting of her actions.
Americans deserve health care reform that lowers costs and preserves choice without harming the quality of our health care or the economy. Obamacare must be repealed.
Slow Benefits Claims Processing is Failing Our Veterans:
Our country owes our veterans more than parades and cheering crowds. After they return home, our nation's gratitude for their duty and sacrifice should also be reflected in our commitment to helping all who have served to receive the veterans' benefits to which they are entitled.
Despite a 40 percent increase in funding and efforts to modernize its claims system, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has failed to keep up with backlogged veterans' disability claims. In the last four years, pending claims have grown by 2000 percent. As a result, more than 600,000 veterans remain stuck in the VA's disability claims logjam. This is both outrageous and unacceptable.
While the average veteran wait time for first-time disability claims currently ranges between 316 and 327 days, veterans in certain parts of the country, including our major cities, are forced to endure even longer delays in processing their claims. For example, veterans in Pittsburgh must wait 625 days on average; Las Vegas, 681 days; Los Angeles, 619 days; Houston, 586 days; and, New York, 642 days. Here in South Alabama, we are not far behind. Veteran disability claims delays can run from 300 to 600 days. Among the worst cases nationally, veterans have waited 800 days, 900 days, and even more than 1000 days for a disability claims decision from the VA. Solving this problem is critical for veterans of all generations.
I recently joined a number of other Members of Congress in calling on President Obama to take direct action to address this major breakdown in the VA disability claims system. It's time President Obama got directly involved to help establish a clear plan to end the VA claims backlog once and for all. This failure is nothing short of a dishonor to our country's heroes.
Monroeville VA Clinic Opens:
On May 20, the long-awaited VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic opened its doors in Monroeville on a trial basis. VA officials say the new clinic is nearing completion and they expect to announce a grand opening in the coming months.
The new VA Outpatient Clinic will be located at located at 159 Whetstone Street in Monroeville. The opening of the Monroeville VA Outpatient Clinic means that veterans in Alabama's Southwest Region will no longer have to make the almost four hour round trip to VA Medical Centers in Montgomery or Tuskegee to receive primary care and ancillary services such as X-ray, laboratory work and local pharmacy support.
For more than a decade, the Veterans Healthcare Administration has been actively transitioning from a hospital-based health care system to a more patient centered system rooted in primary care. With the creation of outpatient clinics, the VA provides health care services much closer to where its patients live. Eighty-seven percent of VA's patient population now lives within 30 minutes of a VA medical facility.
I have worked for a number of years with the VA to establish a clinic in southwest Alabama to improve health care access for local veterans. While the wait has been long, it is rewarding to finally see this long-held dream become a reality for area veterans.