Durbin Meets With Secretary Shinseki, Calls For Public Report On Illinois VA Facilities

Appropriations Committee authorizes increased funding for Veterans Affairs Inspector General to investigate allegations of delayed healthcare at VA facilities

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Following a meeting today with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to discuss recent reports that facilities operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs – including Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital – used secret lists to conceal the amount of time veterans waited for healthcare, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called for a complete review of VA medical facilities, in Illinois and across the country. A photo of today’s meeting is available here.

“Today, I pressed Secretary Shinseki on how Illinois’ 750,000 veterans are being treated, what kind of wait times they are experiencing and what more we can do to make certain they are receiving the healthcare and benefits they have earned,” said Durbin. “I have no doubt that the vast majority of VA employees – many from military families or former service members themselves – are talented and committed to providing the best possible care, but we need to acknowledge the serious charges, get to the bottom of these reports and hold those responsible accountable.”

Earlier today, the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Durbin is a member, passed legislation that provides funding for Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies for fiscal year 2015. The bill includes an additional $5 million in funding for the VA inspector general to look into the issue of delayed healthcare and secret waiting lists.


“We made a promise to stand by the men and women who volunteered to risk their lives in service to our nation.  With almost half of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans filing for disability benefits when they leave the military, the VA system is being overwhelmed.  The question before us now is whether we can rise to this challenge,” said Durbin.


At Durbin’s request, the bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee today also directs the VA to ensure that each Medical Center’s Caregiver Coordinator are able to dedicate their full and undivided attention to supporting severely wounded veterans and the people who care for them. This provision clarifies legislation that Durbin previously authored to provide financial assistance and other support to the family members of wounded veterans. The Family Caregiver Program, which began in 2011, provides technical, financial and practical support to family caregivers of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seriously injured in the line of duty.


Yesterday Durbin spoke on the Senate Floor to discuss the waitlist allegations, as well as previous and ongoing efforts to improve the veterans healthcare system. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Durbin included a provision in the Department of Defense spending bill to speed up the program that will allow a servicemember’s records to transfer to the VA electronically. He also directed the DOD Inspector General to work with the VA Inspector General in determining how to streamline the transfer of records between the two departments.


Video of Durbin’s remarks is available here.


Audio of Durbin’s remarks is available here.