June 06, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) today toured Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility in Tulsa and then released the following statement on the McCain-Sanders' veterans bill announced on June 5 that excludes vital funding for improvements to the Tulsa VA clinic:
"While the McCain-Sanders VA bill has qualities that our veterans need, such as having access to other means of care if they are wait-listed, I am very disappointed that this legislation intentionally singled out our Tulsa VA clinic and took $13 million dollars away from our Oklahoma veterans," said Inhofe. "This funding for improvements to our Tulsa VA clinic had the support of the entire Oklahoma delegation when they voted and the U.S. House passed H.R. 3521 last December. All other 26 clinics that were to receive funding from this House-passed bill are included in the McCain-Sanders bill except Tulsa. As the nation's military begins to transition out of Afghanistan and has most recently done so in Iraq, we are going to see an influx of new veterans in need of care. The Tulsa Clinic Director has said that they project outpatient demand to increase by 33 percent over the next 20 years. Because of this, we are likely to see wait times increase at our Tulsa facility. I'm glad this bill gives veterans another option, but I refuse to punish veterans who fall within the acceptable wait-time window with an overcrowded, obsolete VA facility. Our veterans deserve quality health care.
"Furthermore, the next health care alternative for our wait-listed veterans under the McCain-Sanders bill is with physicians that participate in the Medicare program, another broken system. According to the Oklahoma Medical Association, our state ranks one of the poorest in the nation in the number of physicians per capita. Furthermore, our Oklahoma seniors already face challenges obtaining access to Medicare physicians, as there are only 12 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries, far below the national average. In Oklahoma, this instead shifts one burdened system onto the next instead of fixing the real issue of giving our veterans access to quality care.
"After touring the Tulsa VA clinic this morning, it is apparent that the facility has outgrown its space for the demand it is already receiving, and the building inadequately addresses the behavioral health needs of our veterans returning from the battlefield. I will continue to work and do everything possible to ensure this clinic and our Oklahoma veterans have the funding they need to get access to the quality of care they deserve."
The framework of the McCain-Sanders veterans bill can be read by clicking here.
Inhofe is a cosponsor of the Veterans Choice Act introduced on June 3 by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). The legislation, which served as the framework for the McCain-Sanders deal, gives veterans the ability to receive care from a non-VA provider that is participating in the Medicare program; enforces transparency on wait-times; and tightens accountability on VA operations.
In February, Inhofe cosponsored Sen. Richard Burr's (R-N.C.) amendment to S. 1982 which would have allowed the VA to enter into 27 major medical facility leases in 18 states and Puerto Rico, including a community based outpatient clinic in Tulsa, Okla. Of the 27 VA facilities in this amendment, 26 were included in the McCain-Sanders deal.