Inhofe, Lankford Praise Senate Passage of Their Veterans Legislation

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) praised the Senate’s passage of S. 1266, the Enhancing Veterans Care Act. Inhofe and Lankford introduced this legislation in May to address key health care priorities for our veterans.

“After the December 2015 USA Today article outlining problems in Oklahoma VA facilities, I’ve worked to ensure our facilities are held to the highest standards of the private sector,” Inhofe said. “This started with one-time audits of our facilities by the Joint Commission, but VISN directors and medical center directors should have the permanent authority to request outside oversight to get help improving their facilities. This bill does that, and it is appropriate the Senate passed it just before Veterans Day. I look forward to working with Congressman Mullin to pass it through the House so it can be signed by President Trump.”

“Veterans deserve first-class healthcare.” said Lankford. “Leaders need the ability to gather unbiased, unfiltered information on their organization. This bill allows the VISN director to contract with an accredited third-party entity to inspect and investigate a healthcare facility in order to provide feedback. It will be an important tool for our veteran’s facilities to ensure they’re providing the highest level of care.”

Oklahoma City VA Director Wade Vlosich and Muskogee VA Director Mark Morgan made a joint statement about the legislation:

"The Oklahoma City and Muskogee VA Health Systems underwent both Joint Commission and OIG reviews that were established by Senator Inhofe and Senator Lankford. This process helped the Oklahoma City and Muskogee VA uncover numerous issues and provide a road map for correcting many past mistakes. These reviews helped to enhance the care we provide to our nations veterans at both the Oklahoma City and Muskogee VA Health Care Systems."

Congressman Markwayne Mullin has introduced companion legislation, H.R. 42, in the House of Representatives.

Background:                               

  • On November 2, the VA IG released a report following an investigation of the Oklahoma City VA that was done in conjunction with a third party, the Joint Commission.
  • On August 2, the Senate passed S. 114, to extend the Veterans Choice program. The president signed it into law on August 14.
  • On July 11, Inhofe testified before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs committee in support of the S. 1266  Enhancing Veteran Care Act, which would allow VISN directors to contract with outside organization to conduct investigations into their clinics.
  • On July 10, the VA IG released a report following an investigation of the Muskogee VA that was done in conjunction with a third party, the Joint Commission. An investigation into Oklahoma’s VA clinics in conjunction with a third party was promised to Inhofe after he held the VA IG nominations on the Senate floor last year.  
  • On June 23, President Trump signed S. 1094 the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law. Inhofe cosponsored this legislation. This bill contained portions of S. 2554, which Inhofe introduced last Congress.
  • On Feb. 23, 2016, Inhofe announced on the Senate floor that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had committed in writing to conduct investigations of Oklahoma’s VA hospitals in coordination with an outside entity, a condition made by Inhofe prior to allowing confirmation of the VA Inspector General nominee.
  • On Feb. 12, 2016 Inhofe and Lankford introduced S. 2554, the Veterans Affairs Accountability Act, which would give authority to the Secretary of the VA to remove or demote a VA employee based on performance or misconduct.
  • In January 2016, Inhofe requested that the VA IG visit Oklahoma VA facilities with an outside entity. This request was denied.
  • On Dec. 23, 2015, Inhofe contacted VISN 19 Network Director Ralph Gigliotti and requested his personal assistance in ensuring proper care is provided to the five veterans identified in the Dec. 23, 2015, USA Today article. Inhofe continues to work with the VA on care for these veterans to include addressing existing medical issues and any future medical issues.