Caring for our nation’s veterans

Published 10:44 am Wednesday, November 18, 2015

This past week, as our nation came together on Veterans Day to honor those who have served our country, I traveled across the Fifth District and talked with many of Virginia’s brave veterans.

In addition to attending several Veterans Day events, I visited McGuire VA Medical Center, the Salem VA Medical Center, and three Community-Based Outpatient Clinics, more commonly known as CBOCs, in Danville, Lynchburg, and Charlottesville.

As in the past, I was impressed with the healthcare providers with whom we met. They genuinely care about the veterans they see, and they want to provide the highest level of care to those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

I am grateful for their commitment to that goal.

Some providers expressed the concern that bureaucratic paperwork required by the VA often prevents them from efficiently and effectively delivering the care their patients require.

Because the culture of paper-pushing exists at the macro and micro levels, this bureaucracy stands in the way at every step of the process, right down to the doctor-patient relationship.

Over the years, most of the veterans I have spoken with value the high level of care they receive, but they also often express frustration with all of the red tape that goes along with accessing health care.

In some respects, I believe we have made strides in reforming the way our veterans receive the health care they have earned, but we still have a long way to go.

VA health care providers and the veterans with whom I spoke this week explained that while the Veterans Choice Program is a well-intentioned program aimed at speeding up access to care, there are problems with efficiency in this new model that must be addressed.

While the “40-Mile” Rule was created to allow veterans residing over 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility to receive care outside the VA system, the system in place for identifying these providers and for setting up appointments often results in having veterans having to drive even further than the VA facility for care and in having appointments set beyond the time that would have been set by a VA facility.

We must continue to work to serve our veterans more efficiently, and it is our responsibility to make sure they receive the highest level of care.

That is why Representative Tim Walz (D-Minnesota) and I introduced the Veterans Administration Legislative and Objective Review (VALOR) Act in July. If adopted, this legislation would require that the Department of Veterans Affairs undergo a biannual, independent audit by a non-governmental entity.

This bill would provide an outside perspective in identifying the problems at the VA and would offer solutions to solve these problems on an ongoing basis.

As we continue to work to implement effective long-term solutions, I encourage our veterans and our active-duty members of the armed services to contact our office if we may ever be of assistance in dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs or any other federal agency dealing with these issues.

I am grateful to all of the veterans who took the time to meet with me this week.

I am humbled by the opportunity to serve Virginia’s Fifth District, and I remain fully committed to ensuring that our veterans who have given the most receive the benefits they have earned and deserve.

Finally, last week we witnessed horrific acts of terror committed in Paris.

America stands firmly with France and resolute in our fight against terrorism. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the vrictims and their families and with the entire nation.

Robert Hurt represents Lunenburg County in the U.S. House of Representatives. His website is He can be reached at his Farmville office at (434) 395-0120.