Walorski VA Scheduling Accountability Bill Passes House

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Walorski VA Scheduling Accountability Bill Passes House

Bill Heads to Senate Amid Latest Scheduling Scandal at Northern Indiana VA Clinic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today applauded House passage of the VA Scheduling Accountability Act, her legislation requiring Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities to follow all scheduling rules and withholding bonuses from facility directors who fail to certify compliance annually.

The bipartisan passage of H.R. 467 follows a recent VA investigation that confirmed allegations of improper schedule manipulation at the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Peru, Ind.

“Our veterans risked life and limb for our freedom, but too often the VA has let them down,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “It’s time to put an end to scheduling manipulations and false wait time data. Holding every VA facility accountable for following scheduling rules is an important, commonsense step as we work to fix the VA so it works for veterans.”

BACKGROUND

A recent VA investigation requested by Walorski substantiated allegations of misconduct at the Peru VA clinic, where employees were found to be scheduling appointments for veterans without their knowledge and then canceling them the day of the appointment. Walorski last week joined House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Congressman Jim Banks (R-Ind.) in sending a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin requesting additional information about these failures and the VA’s response.

H.R. 467 would codify into law the annual requirement for each VA medical facility director to certify compliance with VA scheduling practices and would prohibit any future waivers of the requirement. It also would require the VA secretary to submit an annual report to Congress listing facilities that did not certify compliance and providing an explanation for each.

Walorski originally introduced the legislation in 2016 in the wake of the nationwide VA wait times scandal. A 2014 report issued by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that a senior VA official in May 2013 waived the annual requirement to certify compliance with the VA’s scheduling policies. Waiving this requirement reduces accountability, damages the integrity of wait time data, and puts veterans at risk.

The VA Scheduling Accountability Act passed the House by a unanimous vote of 419 to 0 and now heads to the Senate.

Video of Walorski speaking on the House floor in support of the legislation is available here. The full text of her remarks is below.

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’d also like to thank Chairman Roe and Ranking Member Walz. What an honor to have worked with these two gentlemen on veterans’ issues.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of my bill H.R. 467, the VA Scheduling Accountability Act.

“This commonsense legislation codifies an important measure of oversight and accountability of VA facilities to prevent scheduling manipulation – or cooking the books – that has harmed veterans for so long.

“Hearings held by the House VA Committee, and investigations by the VA Inspector General and the GAO, have unfortunately confirmed many of the allegations of cooking books and falsified wait-time data at VA facilities across the country.

“VA has a procedure for scheduling veterans’ medical appointments, which includes 19 different items, such as ensuring that a patient’s desired appointment date is not altered and that the staff are fully trained.

“Importantly, the directive requires each facility to certify compliance with all 19 items every year.

“However, an August 2014 VA Inspector General report uncovered that in May 2013, a senior VA official waived the certification requirement that year, essentially putting facilities on an honor system by allowing them to self-certify.

“Without this crucial accountability mechanism, bad actors were given free rein to manipulate wait-time data and ignore the VA’s required scheduling practices. Meanwhile, veterans faced significant delays in getting the care they needed, while in some extreme cases veterans died.

“Since that time, the VA has reinstated the certification requirements.  However, serious problems remain, as evidenced by a recent VA investigation of a clinic in my own district that I requested after some brave individuals came forward with allegations of wrongdoing.

“The VA found that the clinic scheduled appointments for veterans without the veterans’ knowledge and canceled them on the day of the appointment to fill their schedule for that day.

“If the VA had conducted a proper audit of the facility’s scheduling practices last year, this misconduct could have been prevented.

“The VA’s report recommended a review of scheduling compliance for all medical facilities in the region.

“The VA’s continued inability to reform itself from within is the reason we need to pass this bill.

“This bill will require each facility director to annually certify compliance with the current scheduling directive, or any successor directive that replaces it, and – most importantly – it will prohibit any future waivers. The bill also provides accountability by making a director ineligible for salary bonuses if their facility fails to certify compliance, and it requires the VA to report to Congress a list of facilities that are not in compliance.

“This will provide more oversight of the VA, ensure that Congress is aware of non-compliant facilities, and end the reckless practice of self-certification.

“Mr. Speaker, our veterans risked life and limb for our freedom, but too often the VA has let them down.

“It’s time to put an end to scheduling manipulations, the cooking of the books, and false wait time data.

“Holding every VA facility accountable for following scheduling rules is an important, commonsense step as we work to fix the VA so it works for the veterans in our country.

“I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 467, the VA Scheduling Accountability Act, and I yield back the balance of my time.”

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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