| May 24 2014
As we remember the fallen this weekend, we are also reminded of our duty to their brothers and sisters in arms who continue the fight for freedom, and to the many millions of veterans who have given so selflessly in service to our nation and now wish for lives of dignity, honor and security.
That's why all Americans should be outraged by recent reports that the Department of Veterans Affairs has been selectively denying care to certain veterans. According to the inspector general, 26 VA facilities are now under investigation for disgraceful mismanagement.
In Florida, which is home to almost 2 million veterans, we have widespread and disturbing reports of wait lists, backlogs, misplaced or lost records, and rampant malpractice in our St. Petersburg, Miami and Gainesville VA medical centers.
In recent months, I have been working with U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Pensacola, on legislation that would lead to accountability at the VA by allowing the VA secretary to have the authority he needs to fire incompetent middle-level managers. It's the same kind of authority that managers in practically every other line of work have.
Last week, the House passed this legislation overwhelmingly by a 390-33 vote. With such bipartisan consensus clearly behind our bill, and with the added support of my colleague from Florida, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, I attempted to call it up for a vote in the Senate. Unfortunately this effort was blocked by another senator.
Over this Memorial Day holiday, I encourage people to let their senators know why action must be taken to hold people accountable for the mistreatment of our veterans. Current law obstructs this accountability by forbidding the firing of negligent and incompetent VA officials, which is why my legislation is so important.
I also encourage President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats to take another careful look at my proposal. As Majority Leader Harry Reid said after the House passed it, "I think what the House has done is not unreasonable." Not only is it not unreasonable; it's the very least we can do to correct the systemic problem that has led to the current tragedy.
As we reflect this weekend on all those who have lost their lives in defense of freedom, let us reflect, too, on those who have returned home. Sacrifice does not end on the battlefield but continues on for a lifetime. To honor that sacrifice, we must come together to demand the dignity our veterans deserve.
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