Durbin: Legislation to Address Quality of Care for Nation's Veterans Approved by Congress

Durbin authored provision improves quality control measures at VA facilities

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that legislation to provide essential support services to family caregivers of severely disabled veterans was unanimously approved by Congress.  The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 includes a Durbin-authored provision aims to improve quality control measures at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical facilities by creating a new national quality assurance officer position.  This will give VA employees new forums to raise concerns about the quality of medical care at a facility, and requires the quality assurance office to develop strong peer review mechanisms for physicians.

“The  tragic deaths at the Marion VA hospital violated the obligation our nation owes to its veterans.  Each of their lives can never be replaced,” said Durbin. “Today’s legislation will help avoid such tragedies in the future, and reestablish trust in the veterans health care system.”

Durbin’s provision – written in response to the troubling circumstances at the Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Southern Illinois – had previously been introduced in the 110th Congress by Durbin and then Senator Barack Obama (D-IL).  A month later, in December 2007, Congressmen Jerry Costello (D-IL) and John Shimkus (R-IL) introduced the legislation in the House of Representatives.  The bill will now go to the President for his signature.

In May 2008, Durbin testified at a hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee explaining reasons why his legislation should be included in the Committee’s final package of healthcare related bills – now known as the Veterans’ Health Care Authorization Act of 2009.  Durbin also discussed the Marion VA situation at a hearing in November 2007.  Testimony from several sources including the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Tammy Duckworth and a former patient at the Marion VA Medical Center and Iraq veteran, Steven McCarty aided Durbin’s drafting of this provision.