Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Give The VA The Tools It Needs To Keep Its Promises
In Washington D.C., we are seeing a lot of theatrics and not a lot of concrete action these days. We hear promises made in hearings and at press conferences, we see ribbons cut on the local news, and we hear blustering politicians call for resignations with no plan to fix the underlying problems. There is no better example of these theatrics than the lip service most politicians pay to helping our veterans.
But despite all the usual bluster, Congress finally put something together that will make real and necessary changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs. On May 12, the bipartisan Veterans First Act was unanimously approved by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. This bill includes fixes to the Veterans Choice program, addresses the workforce shortage at VA facilities, and strengthens accountability and oversight.
The Choice program was built with good intentions; making it easier for veterans to receive care is always a good goal, but the rollout has been disastrous. This has left many humming along to hours of hold music while trying to reach one of the contractors that administers the Choice program.
Take for instance, a 75-year-old veteran from Havre, Montana. He was referred by his VA doctor to a cardiologist. VA Montana doesn’t have that specialist in Havre, so he was routed through Choice. This vet made several calls to schedule an appointment and spent hours on hold with Health Net. Then after six long months, VA Montana staff scheduled the appointment themselves at a hospital in town nearby. They ran the cardiogram, and it was not good. He was immediately scheduled for heart surgery. These stories are not unique — all across the country folks are waiting too long for care and these wait times can have grave consequences.
The Veterans First Act, which includes many provisions I have authored, directly addresses these problems and will take great steps in fulfilling our ultimate goal: Making it easier for veterans to access the care they’ve earned.
That’s why after hearing from veterans, I wrote part of the Veterans First Act that fixes Choice by providing the VA with more flexibility to work directly with community healthcare providers in order to deliver care directly to veterans instead of using a middleman to book appointments.
Because making it easier for vets to receive care right there in their communities will benefit veterans everywhere, not just Montana.
But Choice isn’t the only problem currently plaguing the VA. The VA is also grossly understaffed; yet, critical medical positions go unfilled, and the VA doesn’t have the manpower to meet the increased demand for care. The Veterans First Act will help address this by allowing the VA to establish more residency programs and fill VA leadership vacancies that are impacting the delivery of care.
Once the VA is adequately staffed, Congress needs to continue to hold its feet to the fire. That’s why I am proud to say that this bill creates a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. VA officials need to be held accountable, and this bill gives us the tools to make sure they are getting the job done.
The mission for the VA is clear: Make sure veterans can get the care they need in a timely manner. With the Veterans First Act, I believe we give the VA the tools it needs to succeed and Congress the tools it needs to ensure the VA keeps its promises.
'What happens after that is out of their control' — Former military leaders and lawyers react to Trump's war crimes pardons
On Friday, President Donald Trump intervened in the cases of three U.S. service members accused of war crimes, granting pardons to two Army soldiers accused of murder in Afghanistan and restoring the rank of a Navy SEAL found guilty of wrongdoing in Iraq.
While the statements coming out of the Pentagon regarding Trump's actions have been understandably measured, comments from former military leaders and other knowledgable veterans help paint a picture as to why the president's Friday actions are so controversial.
Raccoon infestations and extreme rust didn’t stop an anonymous buyer from nabbing this Soviet-era submarine
A former Soviet submarine that became a tourist attraction docked adjacent to the Queen Mary in Long Beach is expected to be sold soon to an anonymous buyer, with plans to remove the rusting sub by mid-May.
The 48-year-old Russian Foxtrot-class submarine, known as the Scorpion, had hosted paying visitors for 17 years before it fell into such disrepair that it became infested with raccoons and was closed to the public in 2015.
Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.
The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.
During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.
"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."
"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."
Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.
Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.
A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation's third highest award for valor this week for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.
Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, the service announced Monday.