House Republican leaders have sent a letter to President Obama asking for more aggressive action to address the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals scandal, even in the wake of former Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation last week.
"We do not believe this addresses the fundamental problem - which is the abject failure of the department to meet the needs of our veterans," says the letter, authored by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.
They're requesting the president urge Senate Democrats to pass the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act, which passed the House on a large bipartisan vote last month. The bill would give the VA secretary greater authority to fire or demote senior officials who were performing poorly. Senate Democrats blocked the bill, but the language could come up in other VA bills working their way through the Senate.
They would also like to see Mr. Obama direct the VA to comply with congressional oversight in a timely manner, which the agency has not done in the past, and to support a proposal - or an effective alternative - to allow veterans to seek care outside the VA system.
Four Republican senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would choose to seek care at Medicare or Tricare facilities, and House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., is set to introduce legislation that would allow any veteran who cannot receive an appointment within 30 days to seek non-VA care. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has similarly introduced a bill gives veterans who can't get timely appointments with VA doctors the option of going to community health centers, military hospitals or private doctors.
Finally, the Republicans say the president needs to propose a longer-term solution for reforming the system.
"It is imperative that you lay out for the American people your vision for reforming what is clearly a broken system. Are you willing to do whatever it takes, pending the results of the investigations that are underway, to ensure our veterans get the care we owe them, even if it means shaking up the current bureaucracy and rethinking the entire system? Do you agree the VA is a system that may need to be fundamentally transformed in order to meet its mandate of service and care to our nation's veterans?" they ask.