WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, issued the following statement today in response to the Department of Veterans Affairs' self-assessment on the quality of VA's health care facilities. The review was sent to Chairman Akaka yesterday by VA Secretary Jim Nicholson.
"It was heartbreaking to read the review's findings of many sub-par conditions in VA medical facilities, such as leaky roofs, deteriorating walls, and moldy rooms, and even a bat infestation at one VA facility. These conditions should not be accepted in any medical facility in this country, especially not in veterans' facilities.
"Even though this review was clearly motivated by recent media coverage of poor conditions at Walter Reed, I commend the Department of Veterans Affairs for taking the step of investigating shortcomings in its facilities. And although this review was a self-assessment done by VA managers, and not an independent audit, it appears to be straightforward about less than optimal conditions at many VA facilities.
"Like all Americans, I am deeply concerned about the quality of care our veterans receive. Many of the study's findings are shocking, and demand action now.
"I am encouraged by Secretary Nicholson's decision to order ‘all Medical Centers to take corrective actions immediately.' VA must fix the problems highlighted in their self-assessment right away.
"VA should allow outside reviews in the future, and must make a commitment to get VA facilities up to par. The VA's Inspector General reviews each and every VA facility on a regular basis, but VA has yet to comply with many IG recommendations. Making matters worse, the Bush Administration has cut the IG's budget for the second year in a row.
"As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I will make sure VA makes necessary improvements. Whether this requires additional funds, including emergency maintenance funding, or legislative solutions and increased oversight, I stand ready to help VA better serve our wounded warriors. They deserve better, and we owe it to them."
March 22, 2007