Concerned Veterans for America starts Veterans Affairs accountability project
By WESLEY BROWN | The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle | Published: February 26, 2014
Support is growing for a new law that would ease the process of firing and demoting senior executives within the Department of Veterans Affairs, including the directors of VA medical centers.
In an effort to bring greater attention and focus to underserved veterans, Concerned Veterans for America launched its VA Accountability Project last week.
The initiative is the latest in a growing movement among advocacy groups to hold VA leadership accountable for performance failures through the VA Management Accountability Act of 2014.
The reform legislation, which empowers the VA secretary to fire underperforming managers, was introduced this month by Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
“The VA has a long and unsettling record of underserving, overburdening and flat-out ignoring our veterans and their families,” said Pete Hegseth, the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, a national nonprofit that advocates for military families. “We’re here to say, ‘No more excuses.’ It’s time for this record of poor performance to end – which means holding the department’s leadership accountable.”
Hegseth said the site – vaaccountability.com – was launched in response to the growing number of reports of poor service and dysfunctional performance at the VA, the second-largest federal department.
Nationwide, at least 31 preventable deaths have been cited at VA medical centers because of a widespread lack of accountability. Three of those deaths occurred in Augusta, where the gastrointestinal program at Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center delayed 5,100 diagnostic, screening and surveillance consultations in 2011 and 2012.
Leaders of Concerned Veterans for America say the problem is not a shortage of resources.
According to its project Web site, VA funding has increased by more than 60 percent since 2009 – from $98 billion to $153 billion – and Congress has funded nearly every department priority during that time frame.
“VA does not need more money or more programs to accomplish this,” the project states. “VA need(s) three, more critical, reforms: Accountability, Transparency, and Flexibility.”
With that goal in mind, the project provides ways Americans can understand the problem and learn about proposed solutions.
Among the project’s main plan of actions is for participants to call members of Congress to co-sponsor the VA Accountability and Management Act or to join a “strike team” to help put even more pressure on Congress to take action.
“We encourage all veterans and their supporters to visit the site and learn how they can be part of the solution to the troubling problem of VA dysfunction,” Hegseth said.