By Bobby Schilling
The Veterans Administration system badly needs reform. The fatal waitlisting of 40 of our brave heroes in Arizona was completely inexcusable, and unfortunately this waitlisting epidemic is a problem that is occurring across the country. Veterans have not been getting the quality access to health care they deserve and that needs to change.
Fortunately, veterans received some great news this week.
In 2011, I introduced the Enhanced Veterans Health Care Experience Act, a bill that would allow veterans the right to use their own doctors in their own hometowns at VA expense.
One of my passions in Congress was working to fix the broken VA system. My dad was a Korean War veteran, and I remember him struggling to get timely, adequate care through the VA.
There were days when we felt absolutely hopeless.
When I went to Congress, I studied veterans issues and spoke with several folks in Washington who truly understood what worked and what didn't with the VA system. Finally, we came up with a creative solution that helped solve the waitlisting problem without expanding government bureaucracy or adding to the burden of the taxpayers.
It's actually really simple. It makes perfect sense. Why not give veterans access to any hospital in the United States? Why not give them the ability to see any specialist they want?
Our veterans shouldn't be restricted to a broken system. They shouldn't have to wait months to get their eyes checked -- or even worse, to see an oncologist about a potential tumor. Our heroes deserve the best health care this great nation has to offer.
Now, after years of hard work both in and out of Congress, my solution is about to be signed into law.
After months of doing nothing, Congress has finally moved the ball forward to help veterans. My friend, Congressman Jeff Miller, of Florida, introduced the Veterans Access to Care Act and successfully pushed it through the House of Representatives in a unanimous vote of 426-0.
This landmark legislation included the provisions from my bill that would allow veterans access to their own doctors in their own hometowns when waitlists prove too long or traveling to the nearest VA facility proves too much.
The Senate moved quickly on this and passed a similar version of the bill that also allowed veterans access to non-VA providers. A unified version of the bill should be heading to the president's desk any day now.
There is still much work to do, but this bill is a monumental step for veterans in this country who have been needlessly burdened with an ineffectual VA for far too long.
I'm thankful to see my bill finally become law. And more importantly, I'm thankful to see that our veterans are going to finally receive the quality, accessible health care they deserve. Our heroes deserve the best, and it's about time our leaders recognized that.