Collins continues his assault on the V.A.
Just days after the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War, Western New York Congressman Chris Collins said the Federal agency created to help veterans needs a complete overhaul.
“The V.A. needs to have a top to bottom look at what’s wrong. They’re just not serving the veterans. They deserve better,” Collins said.
Since taking over New York’s 27thCongressional District in January, the Clarence Republican hasn’t exactly been impressed with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He said the national attention over the hundreds of thousands of unprocessed medical claims is just one of several problems.
“The bureaucratic system has broken down. They’re in my office, the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, just begging for more assistance from Congress to force the issue for the V.A. to just process the claims on time,” Collins said.
This is not the first time Collins has called on his colleagues to hold the V.A. “accountable.” Collins called for Congressional hearings after the FDA announced that more than 700 patients from the V.A. Western New York hospital in Buffalo could have been infected with hepatitis and HIV. In January, the V.A. released a memo that said some insulin pens at the location were misused.
“It’s the fact that they did reuse pens at the VA locally. It’s the fact that many of the patients were veterans that served our country at great risk. Because really some bureaucrat wasn’t following the proper procedures,” Collins said.
This week, two new developments in Western New York have only fueled Collins’ call for reform. Tuesday, Collins said he learned about what he called a stalled project at the V.A. Medical Center in Canandaigua. It’s a biomass steam generation system that was funded with $15 million in Federal stimulus money. Collins said the project now sits half finished.
“That would save millions of dollars in energy and that’s all come to a screeching halt, and no one at the V.A. really wants to answer for that,” said Collins.
To cap things off, on Wednesday, the V.A. announced it was postponing a sports and recreation competition for veterans scheduled for later this spring in Buffalo. Buffalo was awarded the 27th annual National Veterans Golden Age games in 2011. Organizers have been planning for the event since 2007.
“Hotel rooms have been sold the Buffalo-Niagara convention center has been blocked out. People’s livelihoods are depending on it. They just shrug their shoulders and with weeks to go they pull the plug on it?”
Fellow Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins estimated the games would have had a $2.2 million impact on the local economy. The V.A. blamed the “fiscal climate” for the postponement. Collins says it’s just another sign of dysfunction.
“We’ve spoken to them we’ve written them letters. We’ve had other members of Congress sign onto our letters.”
And while Collins admits Congress hasn’t had much luck pressuring the V.A. to change its ways, he says he’ll keep trying.
“We really need to hold them accountable, because quite frankly they’re not serving the veterans,” Collins added.