WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning during a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) questioned Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson about his plan to restore integrity to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Mr. Gibson was chosen to head up the VA after former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amidst reports of extreme mismanagement at VA medical centers across the country. Congresswoman Kuster was one of the first members of the Committee to call for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation, and during today’s hearing she pushed Acting Secretary Gibson to immediately address the issues that led to his predecessor’s resignation.
“For the past few months, witnesses have testified before the Veterans’ Affairs Committee about the appalling conditions at some of our nation’s VA medical centers, including long wait times, manipulated wait lists, and lying, deceitful employees who put their own monetary interests before the needs of our nation’s veterans,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “This mismanagement is absolutely unacceptable, and today I urged Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson to outline his plan to restore integrity to the VA so nothing like this can ever happen again. First and foremost, the VA must completely overhaul its system for awarding bonuses, and must fire any employees who made veterans wait for care in order to receive higher bonuses – and I was proud to cosponsor legislation that would give the VA power to do just that.”
“Our veterans put their lives on the line to fight for the American ideals we Granite Staters all hold dear. We owe every one of our veterans an extreme debt of gratitude, and they should never – under any circumstances – have to wait for the care they need and deserve. I hope Acting Secretary Gibson takes my concerns to heart, and does everything in his power to ensure that every employee has both the resources and the intent to do what they were hired to do – provide our nation’s veterans with excellent, high quality physical and mental health care services.”
Since allegations of long wait times at the Phoenix VA were first discovered by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Congresswoman Kuster has joined her fellow Committee members in leading an investigation into any and all allegations of mismanagement at VA centers across the nation. She has repeatedly called for increased oversight and immediate action at the VA to prevent any further mismanagement, and was one of the first members to call for a thorough, nationwide audit to uncover any other instances of abuse.
Kuster has also provided strict oversight over the VA medical centers serving New Hampshire, and she has called on the New England VA Network Director to conduct a complete review of wait times and to provide whistleblower protection for staff who come forward with information about mismanagement. She also held a roundtable discussion with Veteran Service Organizations and veteran leaders to hear about their experiences at the VA medical centers, and she continues to monitor their care in New Hampshire.