Submission by Congressman Bob Latta (OH-5)
In a letter to his wife, Abigail, John Adams wrote, "The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."
While Adams may have been off by two days, the Fourth of July is a day for all Americans to remember why we are able to celebrate our blessed liberties. Our Founding Fathers laid the framework for what has become the greatest nation on earth, and it is because of the selfless sacrifices of our troops that these values have held strong. Benjamin Franklin, in response to a Philadelphia woman’s question as to what form of government the Constitutional Convention had given them, aptly replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Continuous threats have challenged our Republic, but our military has never wavered and has remained steadfast in its resolve.
However, we have not returned this same level of commitment to our military men and women. Recent reports have revealed systematic failures within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that must be immediately addressed to ensure our veterans receive the care they have earned. Secret lists, unacceptable wait times and lengthy appeals processes have come to define our veterans’ health care system, and it is time for us to defend our nation’s heroes.
The care of our veterans is neither partisan nor political, and members from both sides of the aisle, including myself, have been outraged by the terrible failings at the VA. We will not stand for the continued runaround we have received from the Administration. In order for us to conduct rigorous oversight over the VA and hold those responsible for these actions accountable, the Administration can no longer evade the truth. The President has been aware of the problems at the VA for years and has chosen not to hold his Department accountable, and in the meantime, veterans’ lives have been lost.
Therefore, the House and Senate have both passed legislation to hold the Administration accountable to all Americans, especially our veterans. H.R. 4031, the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act, gives the VA Secretary the authority to remove senior executive service employees who are not performing at the standards expected when serving our veterans. While this authority already exists, this legislation explicitly outlines these powers to eliminate the unacceptable culture of mistruths and complacency at the VA.
In addition, H.R. 4810, the Veterans Access to Care Act, will help tens of thousands of veterans receive timely medical care by providing greater access to non-VA care at the Department’s expense. It also bans bonuses for all VA employees from Fiscal Year 2014 through Fiscal Year 2016 to ensure these employees are not rewarded for the Department’s gross negligence.
In late May, I also held a series of town hall meetings throughout Ohio’s Fifth Congressional District to learn about the issues our veterans are experiencing. I have shared these stories with my colleagues, including House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Ranking Member Michael Michaud (D-ME), and I will continue to share them to ensure my colleagues are aware of what is occurring throughout Ohio. I have also sent a letter to the VA Secretary, demanding an explanation for the lapses in our veterans’ care, as well as the Department’s plans for ensuring these injustices do not occur in the future.
One of the most disconcerting aspects of the VA crisis is that these issues could have been prevented. We have made a promise to our nation’s heroes and have a duty to uphold our commitment. It is time that we, as a country, defend them by ensuring they receive the care they need.