Sen. Van de Putte Blasts VA Problems, Commits to Hearings
(Austin) — In a press conference today, state Senator Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, condemned misreporting and manipulation of medical appointment wait times by VA clinics as recently alleged by a whistleblower with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Van de Putte, Chair of the Texas Senate Veteran Affairs and Military Installations (VAMI) Committee, spoke at the state Capitol.
"If found true, these actions represent a terrible breach of trust with veterans who rely on the VA health care system," Senator Van de Putte said.
The allegations claimed that reports tracking wait times for a veteran to receive medical care were intentionally altered to make it appear that wait times were less than two weeks, when in fact they were substantially longer.
"The performance standard for veterans to see a doctor is 14 days," Van de Putte said. "However, my own staff has been told that the nearest appointment was 4 months away."
Senator Van de Putte did not call for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, but did say that VA executives need to be held accountable, and demanded that Shinseki take swift action.
"Before we consider resignations, we must immediately move to assess the situation and make concrete steps to make things right," Van de Putte said. "First and most importantly, I want veterans to get the health care they need and earned. A full and thorough investigation is warranted. These men and women have already sacrificed for our country and they deserve answers."
Van de Putte also said action by the state is a possibility.
"I am committed to holding hearings to give Texas veterans a chance to tell their stories. They need to know the State of Texas is on their side. Ultimately, Texas will do the right thing for our veterans. If that means additional resources, I believe we can find them."
BACKGROUND: The state stepped in 2012 when a VAMI Committee hearing revealed that more than 68,000 veterans in Texas had claims that were backlogged at VA. Van de Putte worked with Texas' leadership to dedicate state resources to address this federal problem. Because of the hard work of the Texas Veterans Commission, now the backlog is down to less than 27,000.