Sen. Tom Udall
U.S. SENATE News:
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall joined the Senate Thursday in approving a bipartisan measure to reform veterans’ care and begin to restore accountability and transparency at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in New Mexico and across the country.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill, which passed by a vote of 91-3, earlier this week. It now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it into law.
The bill will address barriers that have led to long wait times for doctors’ appointments by allowing veterans to get care outside the VA system if they can’t get prompt appointments or are unable to travel long distances for care. It includes new authority allowing the VA Secretary to hold senior managers accountable for misconduct, such as the recent scheduling scandal. It provides funding to hire more doctors, nurses and staff where there are shortages, and approves leases at multiple VA facilities, including a $9.5 million lease agreement to continue the VA’s pharmacy research center in Albuquerque.
Udall was the first to speak out against mismanagement and cover-ups at the VA in New Mexico, and he helped lead the call for reform. He issued the following statement after the Senate approved the bill:
“With this bill, we are sending a strong message that VA employees who manipulated scheduling and other data will be held accountable. Our veterans put their lives on the line for our freedom, and the recent scandal at the VA is a betrayal of their trust. This bill takes important steps to reform the VA health care system to ensure veterans get access to the care they have earned — and most importantly, to restore accountability and transparency at the VA in New Mexico and across the country.
“We must ensure the recent scheduling scandal is never repeated. And while this bill offers real reforms that will begin to remove some of the obstacles that New Mexico veterans have faced, I will continue to fight to ensure that we live up to our promise to care for them when they return home.”