Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member, for inviting the Acting Secretary here today.
Mr. Secretary, it seems so long ago since you first testified in front of this Committee. It was only 3 and a half months.
At the time you were the Deputy Secretary and I feel that you have acquitted yourself very well in your time at the VA.
I do hope you will stay on at the VA and help guide the Department through the rough times to come.
The VA operates 1,700 sites of care, and conducts approximately 85 million appointments each year, which comes to 236,000 health care appointments each day.
The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, an independent customer service survey, ranks VA customer satisfaction among Veteran patients among the best in the nation and equal to or better than ratings for private sector hospitals.
I am confident in the health care our veterans in Florida are receiving. With eight VA Medical Centers in Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico and over 55 clinics serving over 1.6 million veterans, veterans are getting is the best in the world.
Over 2,312 physicians and 5,310 nurses are serving the 546,874 veterans who made nearly
8 million visits to the facilities in our region. Of the total 25,133 VA employees, one-third are veterans.
In 2013, 37,221 women received health care services at VA hospitals and clinics in Florida, South Georgia and the Caribbean—more than any other VA healthcare network nationwide. This means that more than 75% of women Veterans enrolled for VA healthcare in VISN 8 were seen by providers in 2013.
I am especially pleased at the new Jacksonville Replacement Outpatient Clinic that was recently opened. The two-story, 133,500 square foot clinic provides state of the art technology and increased specialty services including diagnostics, improved laboratory facilities, expansion of women’s services, minor ambulatory surgical procedures, expanded mental health telehealth services and additional audiology.
When opened, the Orlando VA Medical Center will include 134 inpatient beds, an outpatient clinic, parking garages, chapel and central energy plant. Currently, the 120-bed community living center and 60-bed domiciliary are open and accepting veterans.
While this committee and many others concerned with the well-being of our veterans have been quick to point out what they think are some of the most horrible crimes in the history of man that have supposedly occurred at your department.
However, once this House passes the Conference report updating the policies of the VA and hopefully addressing the wait times our veterans have had to deal with, the real work begins. Your agency will have to work twice as hard to address not only the healthcare of the veterans but the culture that permeated the department.
How do you fix that? That is something you will need to work out. This committee will stand ready to offer suggestions as to how to work better for our veterans.
It is important that you keep the channels of communication open between not only your office and this committee, but your office and the Medical Centers.
You have visited many Medical Centers during your short tenure as the head of the VA. I am pleased you came to Gainesville. I look forward to many more visits over the coming years.
The VA provides quality timely healthcare to our veterans. We have a duty to make sure that all those who have defended this country when called upon and receive the care they have earned through their service.
How do you feel about putting VA into wings of private or community hospitals, where all involved can share resources?