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Opening Statement of The Honorable Michael Michaud, Ranking Member, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing today.  We all agree that patient safety and quality of care issues remain top priorities for this Committee. 

I read with concern the testimony provided by our first two panels.  All too often, members of this Committee hear the same issues raised again and again in reports by agencies such as the Government Accountability Office and the VA’s Office of Inspector General. 

Findings such as inadequate training, improper oversight, lack of guidance, no accountability, and failing to follow proper procedures already in place, are too common.

Mr. Chairman, I understand that the Department is a very large agency and not without its challenges.  I also understand that mistakes are going to be made.  I also believe no matter how transparent the Department is, something clearly has to change.

My frustration lies in the fact that findings are made and plans are implemented, but the

      situation does not seem to get better.  Veterans, like Mr. Coates from our first panel, have suffered terribly from these ongoing mistakes.   As Mr. Coates states in his testimony:

“I am not here today for me.  I am here to speak for those to come, so that they might be spared the pain I have already endured and know that I have yet to face.”

Mr. Chairman, we owe it to the veterans of this nation to do everything we possibly can to improve the processes that will help prevent such incidents’ happening in the future, and ensure proper accountability for those who are responsible.

Veterans are not statistics, a number or a column on a spreadsheet.  They are people who have fought for the freedoms we so enjoy today.  We need to remember that and the Department needs to make much stronger efforts to turn this issue around. 

In today’s day of advanced systems and rapid technology development, there is no excuse for “losing track” of vital consults and appointments.  Ensuring proper tracking and timely appointments is critical.

Mr. Chairman, I do not want to revisit this issue in six months.  It is time to stem the tide of rationalizations and excuses.  Let’s get this done. 

I look forward to hearing from our panelists today and want to thank everyone for being here. 

Mr. Chairman I yield back the balance of my time.