June 03, 2014

HIRONO HELPS TO SHAPE SENATE RESPONSE TO VA CRISIS

Hirono Attached Key Wins For Hawaii To The Ensuring Veterans Access To Care Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono and her colleagues on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee released the Ensuring Veterans Access to Care Act today to improve administration and increase accountability at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in order to quickly expand access to medical care for veterans. The Senate is expected to take up this critical legislation this week. Hirono has hosted numerous veterans roundtables across Hawaii this year and will hold a Veterans Affairs Committee field hearing and workshops in Hawaii later this summer.

“As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs committees, I want to make sure that the spotlight isn’t on the VA just during crisis – we need to maintain constant vigilance to ensure our veterans are treated with the dignity and honor they deserve even when the cameras move on to other things,” said Hirono. “I’ve gained valuable insights from my discussions with veterans in Hawaii and will continue to advocate on their behalf every way that I can, as I have since joining the Veterans’ Committee. That includes securing funding for the Leeward Oahu VA Health Center and measures to help more Native Hawaiian veterans access the VA system into this bill. The Ensuring Veterans Access to Care Act is a step toward upholding the commitment our nation has made to caring for our veterans and I hope that the Senate can put partisan politics aside to pass this bill quickly.”

Hawaii benefits in the bill include:

  • $15,887,370 in authorized funds for the Leeward Oahu VA Outpatient Healthcare Access Center to be co-located with the Department of Defense, Kapolei Vet Center and Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Office.
  • Directing VA to expand healthcare contracts with the Native Hawaiian Health Care System, community health centers and DOD among others.


Additionally, the bill will:

  • Allow for the Removal of Incompetent Senior Officials: the bill provides the VA Secretary authority to immediately remove incompetent senior executives based on poor job performance while maintaining due process for those employees.
  • Shorten Wait Times for Veterans: This bill would VA’s process for sending care into the community by requiring VA to take into account wait times for care at VA, the health of the veteran, and the distance the veteran would be required to travel, as well as the veterans preference, when authorizing care for the veteran when VA is unable to provide such care within its stated goal (currently 14 days).
  • Bolster the VA’s Ability to Bring in Doctors: This bill would give VA the ability to rapidly hire new doctors, nurses and other health care providers in areas where there are identified shortages. It would allow National Health Service Corps participants to receive scholarships and loan repayment for employment at VA facilities, making it easier for VA to attract needed personnel.