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Chairman Roe Statement: Exploring VA’s Oversight of Contract Disability Examinations

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Washington, November 15, 2018 | Molly Jenkins (202-225-3527) | comments

Washington, D.C. - Today, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, chaired by Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) held a hearing on VA's Oversight of Contract Disability Examinations. 

Below are Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.)’s remarks:

Opening Remarks As Prepared for Delivery:

I want to thank Chairman Bost and Ranking Member Esty for holding this hearing today.

One of my priorities as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is ensuring that our nation’s veterans receive timely and accurate compensation decisions.

Timely and accurate disability exams are a key input into those decisions. 

Some of you may not know that in 1996 Congress approved the use of contract examiners to allow VHA to focus more of its resources on treating patients, and to expedite the scheduling of disability exams. 

As Chairman Bost pointed out in his statement, since Congress originally authorized the pilot program, the Department has dramatically expanded both the size and cost of the program.

While it is important for VA to schedule examinations in a timely manner, it is equally important that contract examiners are rendering accurate and consistent medical opinions.

For these reasons – when I first came on as Chairman of the full committee – I immediately requested that GAO investigate whether VA is effectively overseeing contract exams.

When I reviewed the report, I was incredibly frustrated to learn that VA does not have procedures in place to monitor a program that is vital to providing the medical information needed to decide veterans’ claims.

Moreover, over the last two fiscal years, the contract exam program cost almost $1.6 billion, and VA cannot timely verify if contractors are charging the correct amount.

As a doctor, I know that my medical practice would not have succeeded if I was unaware of whether my patients were receiving quality and timely care.

Unfortunately, VA hasn’t been collecting the information necessary to assess whether the contract exams are satisfactory – and to hold the vendors accountable if not.

Congress needs this information to determine if contract examiners are effectively serving veterans, and to ensure that the program is a wise use of taxpayer funding.

Today, I am interested in hearing about how VA is addressing GAO’s recommendations to improve how VA evaluates contractor performance.

For example, GAO suggested that VA develop and implement a plan for how it will use EMS to oversee the contractors.

I am looking forward to hearing from VA about how the Department intends to use EMS in a way that will benefit veterans, while holding vendors responsible for any delayed or inadequate exams. 

Additionally, I am concerned by GAO’s finding that VA does not monitor the adequacy of its training for medical examiners.

If VA’s training is not sufficient then examiners may render an inaccurate medical opinion, which could result in a rater denying a veteran’s claim.

Ultimately, I am committed to ensuring that the men and women who served our country receive the benefits they have earned, and I am looking forward to hearing from the witnesses about ways to improve VA’s oversight of contract exams.

Again, Chairman Bost, I appreciate you holding this hearing and I yield back.

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