Rep. Mike Michaud is joining House and Senate lawmakers today in the opening meeting of the Conference Committee for H.R. 3230, the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014. The group of 28 lawmakers is tasked with reconciling Senate and House-passed legislation aimed at addressing the VA healthcare crisis. As Ranking Member on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Michaud will play a lead role in the talks.
"As we begin this important work on behalf of our nation's veterans, I hope we all see beyond the immediate crisis and seize this opportunity to enact substantive, long-term improvements to the VA system. Ensuring our veterans receive high-quality, timely and safe healthcare is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue, but an American one. There are no monopolies on good ideas," said Michaud. "This is an opportunity for us not just to evaluate the resources we need to allocate for the VA to function better, but to ensure the VA is more capable of looking toward the future and planning accordingly for the influx of patients it will no doubt see as more and more veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seek to enter the system. I believe that, in addition to a cultural problem, a number of the VA's failures can be attributed to poor planning. We can address that now."
Ranking Member Michaud has voted for a number of bipartisan bills aimed at strengthening accountability and improving performance within the VA. Michaud supported H.R. 4031, bipartisan legislation that would make it easier to remove poorly performing VA executives; as well as H.R. 4810, which would make it easier for veterans not receiving timely care within the VA to get access to non-VA care. Michaud also has called on President Obama to enact key provisions from his own legislation, H.R. 4399, via executive order. Michaud's legislation would not only hold an even larger swath of VA executives accountable for performance, but it would establish patient goals and outcomes for ensuring veterans are receiving quality care. In addition to legislative action, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee is continuing to hold a series of oversight hearings into the matter. In fact, the committee has held more than 90 hearings this past Congress -- more than 50 of which involved oversight.
This is the first formal conference committee for the Veterans' Affairs Committee since 1999. The conference committee is made up of 28 lawmakers, including 14 members of the House. Six of those House members are Democrats, all of whom serve on the Veterans' Affairs Committee: Ranking Member Mike Michaud (D-ME), Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL), Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), and Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN). On the Senate side, the Conference Committee is composed of eight Democrats and six Republicans.