Dr. Boozman's Check-up

“But that’s not going to happen in the future. It’s just not going to happen.”

This is the response I received from Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald when I pushed for a response to wasteful spending at VA facilities at a hearing today in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction & Veterans Affairs.

As an example, I highlighted the construction of solar panels at the Little Rock Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) that were never activated because they were not compatible with the local electricity grid.

As I stated to the Secretary, eight million dollars for a failed project is a large amount of wasted taxpayer money. VA can’t waste taxpayer money on projects that fail well before they can get off the ground. Every dollar VA wastes negatively impacts the services and benefits our veterans receive.

The American people need to be assured that this is not systemic and that it must not happen again. The Secretary was adamant it won’t on his watch. That is encouraging, but only stringent oversight will ensure that goal is met.

But it runs deeper much deeper. As I mentioned to the Secretary, these are issues of trust. 

Another perfect example of a breach of trust on VA’s part is the ongoing delays providers are facing from VA when they seek reimbursements after providing medical care for veterans. 

These delays have a negative impact on veterans’ healthcare. Working together to resolve billing and payment matters will ensure our veterans receive the healthcare they earned and our health facilities get the payments they are owed. 

In Arkansas, we have 75 hospitals with 4,400 claims pending with VA, worth a total of $24 million.  Some claims have been pending for years. I raised this to Secretary McDonald who laid out the Department’s strategy for rectifying this problem. 

These are among the many serious trust issues at VA. If the public can’t trust VA to be wise with taxpayer money, Americans will lose faith. If the Department refuses to meet its obligations to providers, veterans will lose service. These problems require an immediate course correction on VA’s part and Congress must remain committed to holding the Department accountable.