President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed legislation allowing for more and faster investigations of Department of Veterans Affairs facilities by permitting nongovernment groups to inspect them.
The bill, titled the Enhancing Veteran Care Act, would allow regional VA officials to enter into contracts with accredited nonprofits to identify and report deficiencies at VA hospitals. It’s the latest move this year in a larger effort by the VA and Congress to bring accountability to VA workers.
“Unfortunately, the VA hasn’t always met the standard of health care that our veterans deserve,” Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., one of the bill sponsors, said in a written statement. “The Enhancing Veteran Care Act will help ensure our veterans receive quality care by giving senior officials at the VA regional level the tools to hold people accountable.”
The VA Inspector General’s Office and the Government Accountability Office are already tasked with investigating VA facilities. But Inhofe and other congressional lawmakers criticized those organizations for the slow pace of their investigations and delays in the VA following up on their recommendations.
In a statement, Inhofe asserted reports from VA inspector general investigations “have not matched the reality on the ground.” He said the new law will be a tool for medical center directors and other local VA officials.
“The directors have the best perspective of what is going on at their facilities,” Inhofe said.
Before entering into a contract, regional VA officials must notify their supervisors in Washington, the VA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office, the bill states. Nonprofits chosen by the VA must be qualified to assess and accredit medical facilities.
The legislation had bipartisan support. It passed the Senate in November with unanimous consent, and the House approved it earlier this month with a vote of 423-0.
In April, Congress passed another bipartisan bill with the purpose of bringing accountability to the VA.
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 speeds up the process that the VA uses to discipline, suspend and terminate poor-performing workers and created an accountability office within the agency’s Washington headquarters.
NEWPORT — The explosion and sinking of the ship in 1943 claimed at least 1,138 lives, and while the sea swallowed the bones there were people, too, who also worked to shroud the bodies.
The sinking of the H.M.T. Rohna was the greatest loss of life at sea by enemy action in the history of U.S. war, but the British Admiralty demanded silence from the survivors and the tragedy was immediately classified by the U.S. War Department.
Michael Walsh of Newport is working to bring the story of the Rohna to the surface with a documentary film, which includes interviews with some of the survivors of the attack. Walsh has interviewed about 45 men who were aboard the ship when it was hit.
Editor's note: this story originally appeared in 2018
How you die matters. Ten years ago, on Memorial Day, I was in Fallujah, serving a year-long tour on the staff and conducting vehicle patrols between Abu Ghraib and Ramadi. That day I attended a memorial service in the field. It was just one of many held that year in Iraq, and one of the countless I witnessed over my 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Like many military veterans, Memorial Day is not abstract to me. It is personal; a moment when we remember our friends. A day, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth."