Durbin: Senate Passes Bipartisan Legislation To Increase Accountability To Senior Staff At VA Medical Centers

Senator meets with Acting Secretary to receive update on Illinois VA facilities cited for further review in recent audit



Senator meets with Acting Secretary to receive update on Illinois VA facilities cited for further review in recent audit


FBI begins criminal investigation into VA system following requests from Durbin, other members of Congress


[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today applauded the bipartisan Senate passage of legislation to improve veterans’ access to health care and address serious problems facing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The legislation will bring accountability to senior staff at VA medical facilities; give veterans access to private doctors, community health centers and other hospitals and clinics; make it easier for the VA to hire and train more doctors and nurses; and expand access to care through the creation of 26 new medical facilities, including a research facility at Hines VA Hospital near Maywood, Illinois. The legislation also will allow in-state tuition for all veterans at public colleges and universities, improve medical care for military sexual assault victims, and provide more VA benefits for surviving spouses of deceased servicemembers.

“Wars create veterans and veterans need medical care. This is part of the cost of going to war,” said Durbin. “Secret waitlists and failures to provide care do not reflect the promise we made to the men and women who serve this country. The Senate came together today on a bipartisan basis to say we must do better.”

Shortly before the vote, Durbin met with Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson to discuss the results of a nationwide internal audit into waitlist practices at VA facilities. Durbin called for the meeting earlier this week after reviewing the results of the audit, which flagged Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital and VA clinics in Danville, Joliet, Marion, Peoria, and Great Lakes for further review. The nationwide audit revealed that more than 57,000 patients at 731 VA hospitals and outpatient clinics were awaiting initial medical appointments 90 days or more after requesting them. The audit also found that an additional 64,000 veterans enrolled in the system over the past decade had never had appointments. A photo of today’s meeting is available here.


“I was deeply is troubled earlier this week to learn that six Illinois veterans healthcare facilities were flagged for further review in the VA’s internal audit,” said Durbin. “Today, I spoke with Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson about what steps the VA is taking to ensure that veterans seeking care at these facilities are being seen in a timely manner. He assured me that the veterans in need of immediate care have been identified and scheduled for appointments. He also confirmed that the Office of the Investigator General is looking into each of the facilities flagged as being in need of further scrutiny to determine whether bonuses were paid to senior officials there and what pressure may have existed to create and maintain secret waitlists.”


Earlier today, the Federal Bureau of Investigations announced that is has opened a criminal investigation into the VA following reports that officials manipulated medical waiting lists and delayed care for thousands of veterans. On Monday, Durbin joined 19 Senators in sending a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging the Department of Justice to hold accountable anyone responsible for abuses of these waitlists. A copy of that letter can be accessed here.


Video of Durbin’s remarks is available here.