Americans owe a debt of gratitude to our nation’s bravest individuals — those who have served their country and risked their lives in defense of freedom and liberty. We must always remember the sacrifices of our veterans and their families, and I remain committed to providing the best care possible for them.
As a veteran myself, I am honored to fight for these heroes as chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. A top priority in my new role is reforming the claims appeals process and ensuring veterans efficiently receive the care they have earned. Caring for our veterans should not be a partisan issue. That’s why I make it a priority to reach out to my colleagues across the aisle to solve these problems; and I am proud to say we are making progress.
Cleaning up VA food services
Last year, a whistleblower complaint uncovered significant sanitary and vermin infestation issues in the kitchen of a VA hospital in northern Illinois. According to the whistleblower and complaints by veterans, pests, including roaches, were present on counters when meals were prepared and served. The thought of roaches and other insects crawling across kitchen countertops where our veterans eat their meals is simply unacceptable.
Our heroes deserve much better than substandard eating conditions that would never be tolerated in a private sector hospital, so I introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure the food our veterans are served meets quality standards, and that facilities are properly maintained and inspected. My legislation was signed into law last year.
Speeding up the appeals process
Many veterans have experienced long wait times in the processing of their appeals claims. I was discouraged to hear that more than 470,000 of our heroes are still waiting on a decision from the VA on their benefits appeals. This is simply unacceptable. That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act to provide veterans with a streamlined process to have their appeals decided in a timely manner.
Restoring long-term leadership for reform
I was angered to learn that more than two dozen VA medical centers throughout the United States lack a permanent director — some for almost two years. Many have been managed by short-term directors who are on the job for an average of only four months. No business or organization can successfully operate under a revolving door of short-term leaders — especially not one tasked with caring for America’s heroes.
At a time when restoring accountability and leadership at the VA is a primary focus, we need long-term leadership with a long-term vision for reform. That is why I introduced the bipartisan VA Health Center Management Stability and Improvement Act requiring the VA to implement a plan for filling these positions with experienced, highly qualified and permanent directors. I am proud that my legislation was approved by the House in March and I am hopeful for Senate approval in the future.
Providing a cost of living adjustment
As chairman, I authored two bipartisan bills in my committee to provide a cost-of-living adjustment for our veterans. One provides a COLA for VA beneficiaries this year to ensure that veterans and their families are able to keep up with the rate of inflation. The other provides an automatic COLA every year that Social Security recipients receive one. By taking this two-track approach, we are able to work on a long-term fix while also having a short-term solution to fall back on, if needed. These legislative initiatives are vitally important to give peace of mind to our heroes and their families when planning their finances.
Congress cannot lose sight of the promises made to our troops, our veterans, and their families. Our service members must be provided with the tools necessary to complete their mission and return safely as quickly as possible. I will continue to work to ensure that our veterans receive the care and services to which they are entitled in a timely, convenient, and efficient manner.
Mike Bost, a Republican from Murphysboro, represents the 12th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.