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Tim Ryan: VA health system must change -- and put our veterans first

Published: July 7, 2014 4:00 AM

The recent news about the crisis at the VA health system is very troubling to me, and it is clear that these problems need our immediate and persistent attention. During my time in Congress, I have made it a priority to get veterans the quality healthcare they deserve, and I have many times spoken out about the number of veterans who take their own lives. I worry deeply about veterans waiting for the mental health help they need. Too many of these men and women are seeking help that is out of reach, but we now know that the price of not treating all of those in need is too high. I believe that the high suicide rate among our veterans is the ultimate metric of a failed system.

As these systemic problems at our Veterans Affairs hospitals around the country are becoming well publicized, I join with all Americans in speaking out on behalf of those who have given so much to our nation. No veteran should have to wait months for care. Not taking the time and care necessary to provide adequate health care to our veterans reflects poorly upon our nation.

We need to change the VA system in a way that is going to fix this problem and heal our veterans, and we must work to rebuild the trust with veterans and their families. The House of Representatives has taken the first step by passing the Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014, which directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter into contracts with non-VA facilities to furnish hospital care and medical services to veterans. In addition, veterans who reside more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility would be provided service in a closer, non-VA facility.

Last year, I introduced the Veterans and Armed Forces' Health Promotion Act of 2013, which would dramatically improve the quality of care that our wounded warriors receive, and propel the VA and the Department of Defense towards innovative healthcare solutions for the complex challenges they face. I believe these integrative approaches can help preemptively address these needs and ultimately create less expensive treatments for long term veteran healthcare.

All of this is possible only if our vets can get appointments and be seen by their doctors in a timely manner. The bottom line is this -- our veterans must be seen and treated properly, in a timely matter. The needs of the veterans should be at the center of this discussion. We need to ask the question: What do our veterans need and how soon can we deliver on those needs? The people who are not dealing with it appropriately need to be held accountable. This has been going on for too long, and it is unacceptable.

The Veterans Health Administration has a long history of outstanding service to our veterans. It has dedicated doctors and nurses, and serves millions of our veterans with the best healthcare the country can provide. But the problem of access to health care for our veterans is primary. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Co-Chair of the Military Mental Health Caucus, I will always advocate to put veterans first. We cannot overlook the fact that the current system is broken and these men and women deserve better quality treatment. We are learning a hard lesson that this issue can no longer be ignored and that improving the wellbeing of these individuals is crucial for the United States of America.

Tim Ryan represents the 13th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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childofgod Jul 7, 2014 11:48 AM

TIm Ryan... nice words, but what have you been doing since you got into office in 2002 to correct this problem? 

I think you've been in office too long. You state in your article that "We cannot overlook the fact that the current system is broken and these men and women deserve better quality treatment." The Vets deserve better treatment and the Voters deserve better representatives. It's time to vote OUT the incumbents, whether D or R, they need to go. They've allowed this VA crisis to grow, knowing it was growing. Throw the bums out!

redleg6 Jul 7, 2014 10:58 AM

From above:...The recent news about the crisis at the VA health system is very troubling to me, and it is clear that these problems need our immediate and persistent attention.

All of a sudden the VA is in crisis? This is troubling to Rep. Ryan, (DEMOCRAT)? News?

In 2007, then Senator Obama (DEMOCRAT), spoke of the VA's problems, and blamed the Bush administration. Since President Obama (DEMOCRAT) took over, the VA's problems have gotten worse, not better.

Excerpt from:..Iowa March 2007 speech: No veteran should have to fill out a 23-page claim to get care, or wait months - even years - to get an appointment at the VA...Sen. Obama (D).

Tim Ryan (DEMOCRAT) was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 and was sworn in on January 7, 2003. Successfully reelected five times, he is now serving in his sixth term.

 President Obama (DEMOCRAT) and his aides were briefed in late 2008 – during his transition into office – on problems with unreliable wait time data at the VA. Yet it was never a priority of his administration.

So what has Rep. Ryan (DEMOCRAT) done to fix the problems at the Veterans Administration during his time in office, (6 terms)?

Senator Obama (DEMOCRAT) knew about the problems in 2007. Of course he hasn't done anything either.

Now all the politicians are on the band wagon, expounding their indignity, and taking their holy pictures to show the public how outraged and concerned they are about the poor treatment Veterans receive, at the VA.

If these politicians really cared about the Veteran, why didn't these folks do something years ago before it became a crisis? Everyone of them knew the VA had major problems.

Republicans and Democrats are equally to blame for this crisis. It didn't happen overnite. However, the Dems have been in charge since 2009, and they have ignored the VA's problems for 5-6 years, until it made the National News.

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