Rep. Walorski seeks input from veterans and veterans advocates ahead of new VA bill implementation

The lawmaker visited the VA clinic in Goshen and planned to visit other veterans advocates as part of the effort.

Posted on Aug. 12, 2014 at 7:08 a.m.

GOSHEN — U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski thinks heads need to roll and people need to be jailed over the brouhaha related to care of veterans at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.

Numerous veterans reportedly died while awaiting care at a Phoenix VA health facility, which sparked a national debate and led to the signing by President Obama last week of a reform bill to improve health care delivery at VA hospitals and clinics. It’s been a priority issue for Walorski, who took part in last Thursday’s signing ceremony, and it’s the focus of numerous planned stops she’ll make in the 2nd District during the House’s August recess, before formal proceedings resume in Washington, D.C., next month.

"I think people need to go to prison,” she said Monday, Aug. 11, during a visit to the VA health clinic in Goshen. “I think a lot of people need to be fired at that executive level.”

The new $16.3 billion VA bill aims to speed health care delivery to veterans, opening up options for veterans in rural areas and veterans who face waits of over 30 days to see doctors. It also contains a provision allowing for the firing of poor performing executives.

More generally, Walorski, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said she’s trying to gather feedback from VA reps in the 2nd District ahead of implementation of the VA measure. She had other planned meetings Monday with veterans advocates in LaPorte, Knox and Winamac and intends on holding a “veterans roundtable” before the August recess ends.

“I want to make sure when I go back to D.C. in September, with the passage now of a new bill that gives us a new open door, that we get everything we need in our district to serve our veterans when it comes to health,” she said.

She also hopes to garner input on what veterans need, beyond just improved health care. ”We’re all over the district to say, from a holistic perspective, what do our veterans need, for better quality of life and to remain productive and to have the promises fulfilled that the country made to them,“ she said.

Denise Deitzen, director of the VA’s Northern Indiana Health Care System, met with Walorski Monday as part of her visit. The Northern Indiana Health Care System, based in Fort Wayne, is the umbrella group that oversees the Goshen clinic and other northern Indiana VA facilities.

”I am very excited about the passing of this law,“ Deitzen said.

Among the key issues here, she said, are making sure construction of a planned new clinic in South Bend moves ahead and increasing funding for mental health care and care coordination. Funding is locked in for the South Bend project, originally to have been completed in 2015, but construction is on hold, she said.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit him on Facebook.

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