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New Orlando VA Hospital A Milestone But Agency Needs More Work

May 29, 2015 | News

This week, the doors opened at the long awaited Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center on the Lake Nona campus. This was a welcome occasion for veterans throughout Central Florida, who will now be cared for in this new state-of-the-art hospital.
Although there is much to celebrate about this milestone, it also reminds us of the need for closer scrutiny of all that is going wrong at the VA. That includes all the problems encountered during the construction of this hospital, which finally opened three years later than originally promised and cost hundreds of millions of dollars over budget. This is not an isolated problem. Just last week, more problems emerged with the new Denver VA hospital project, which is already years overdue and had cost overruns of more than $1 billion.
Questions need to be asked, and people need to be held accountable for what amounts to broken promises to our veterans that squander precious resources. In the coming days, I will formally request that the Government Accountability Office conduct a stem to stern review of what went wrong, as well as all that went right, with the Orlando project. It’s critically important that the VA learn from its mistakes and apply these lessons as it embarks on a major nationwide wave of constructing new medical facilities in accordance with last year’s VA reform legislation that I helped turn into law.
Of course, the problems our veterans are encountering at the VA are much deeper than mismanaged construction projects. At its most rotten core, the VA today is plagued by employees and managers who feel they can get away with practically anything and still collect their paychecks.
Last year, I worked with House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Chumuckla, to change this culture and succeeded in empowering the VA secretary with new authorities to fire bad managers. Unfortunately, despite an estimated 280,000 VA employees being involved in the appointment-scheduling scandal that came to light last year, only a handful of employees have actually been fired for their involvement.
It’s clear additional authorities are needed to deal with the full scope of the problems at the VA. Therefore, we’ve introduced new, even tougher and more sweeping legislation to give the VA secretary additional authorities to remove or demote any VA employee, not simply managers, based on performance or misconduct.
Congress should pass this legislation immediately, the president should sign it into law, and the VA secretary should fully and swiftly implement it.

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