WASHINGTON—As the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) begins implementing historic reforms passed into law during the 115th Congress, the leadership of the Congressional committees overseeing the department is calling on Secretary Robert Wilkie to work collaboratively with Congress throughout the process.
In a letter to Wilkie, eight committee chairmen and ranking members—including U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the VA—called for transparency and accountability from the department. It comes at a time when the VA is managing the simultaneous roll-out of major laws including the VA MISSION Act, which overhauls how veterans receive health care, and the Forever GI Bill, which significantly updates educational benefits offered to veterans—all while undertaking the largest health record modernization project in the nation’s history.
“With all of the reforms underway simultaneously, it is vital for VA to share information openly–even pre-decisional information–so that we can work together and have a common understanding of the impact of changes, including costs, and are able to assess the impact any changes will have on other parts of VA. We share the common goal of VA’s success, and our hope is that early, frequent, and fully transparent dialogs will allow VA and Congress to jointly head off the kind of serious missteps we have seen in some recent implementation efforts. All of the changes being implemented require VA to be more open, transparent, complete, and candid when engaging with Congress in the critical implementation stages of these programs,” the letter states.
The letter was spearheaded by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-MT). He was joined by the Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Mark Takano (D-CA) and Phil Roe (R-TN), and Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees that fund the VA, including Boozman, Brian Schatz (D-HI), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and John Carter (R-TX).
Boozman—the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies—noted that this good faith outreach effort from the critical members of Congress who will be overseeing the VA’s efforts is aimed at ensuring there is an ongoing, positive dialogue between Congress and the VA throughout the process.
“The VA is moving forward to implement many positive changes Congress has passed into law for our veterans. We simply need to ensure these changes are being instituted properly,” Boozman said.
The letter can be read in full HERE.