Price Floor Statement on Emergency VA Funding

July 25, 2014
Price Floor Statement on Emergency VA Funding

Mr. Speaker, our Nation has a sacred obligation to provide for those who served and sacrificed for this country. Just as the military leaves no soldier behind on the battlefield, we must leave no veteran behind when they return home, and yet, Mr. Speaker, as too many veterans and their families can attest, our collective efforts often fall short.

The recent revelations of deceptive and dishonest scheduling practices at the Phoenix VA and elsewhere throughout the country have underscored a much more ominous reality: serious structural systemic problems at the VA that must be addressed immediately. We clearly have work to do.

As a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for funding military construction projects and the Department of Veterans Affairs, my colleagues and I have fought for years to ensure that the Department has the resources it needs to provide for our Nation's veterans.

While money alone is not a guarantor of timely access to quality care, a Department tasked with as monumental an undertaking as providing for millions of veterans, generations of veterans--from World War II to the current conflict in Afghanistan--must be ably prepared and equipped from the inside out, from top to bottom, with the resources it needs to get the job done.

Financial resources must translate into human resources. As the head of any large organization can tell you, it is the people who comprise the organization that ultimately make the difference.

That is why I rise in strong support of this motion to instruct, Mr. Speaker. My district in North Carolina is home to tens of thousands of veterans who rely on the VA medical centers in Durham and Fayetteville or one of the many smaller facilities throughout the region for care.

I know firsthand the importance of an organization like the Department of Veterans Affairs, tasked with providing comprehensive medical care for so many veterans and for having sufficient staff on hand to do that, and too many VA facilities around the country don't have sufficient staff. They face glaring shortfalls of key medical personnel, particularly primary care and mental health professionals.

Now, Mr. Speaker, what about the bad actors within VA management? They have received much attention since the current scandal broke. For certain, there is no question that bad actors within the Department must face the consequences of their actions. Those who bent or broke the rules have to be reprimanded or, in egregious cases, terminated.

This body has passed a bill that would provide the Secretary more authority to do just that, but too often overlooked are the tens of thousands of men and women--many, themselves, veterans--at the Department of Veterans Affairs who work tirelessly every day, often long hours, to ensure that our veterans receive the care they have earned and that they deserve.

I urge my colleagues in both Chambers and on both sides of the aisle: lay off the shots at ``VA bureaucrats,'' set aside partisan differences, work together to solve this crisis. We must address these shortcomings by enacting comprehensive VA reform legislation that is worthy of the men and women who have sacrificed so much.

That is why it is critically important, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has the authority and the resources required to hire and employ sufficient numbers of medical professionals. This motion would do just that, and I urge my colleagues to support it.