Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is finally demanding answers from the Department of Veterans Affairs after a scathing report found that roughly 35,000 veterans were delayed or prevented entirely from enrolling in VA healthcare.
The Hill reported that McCain, who chairs the Armed Service Committee, sent a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald Thursday stating that veterans were potentially “delayed or discouraged” from getting VA health benefits.
“I continue to be disappointed in the VA’s inability to manage the benefit programs enacted by Congress. The VA has a robust budget and has been given ample additional resources to make the necessary changes to its systems and processes so that these 35,000 veterans could have been properly enrolled and received VA care,” McCain wrote.
In a leaked document to the Huffington Post, the VA claimed that a computer error was responsible for blocking more than 35,000 veterans, many of whom are Iraq War veterans, from enrolling in VA care. The veterans’ applications were listed as “pending” for having an incomplete means test, which is something veterans aren’t required to fill.
McCain took issue with the fact the documents were leaked by a VA whistleblower and questioned the department’s level of transparency with lawmakers and the general public.
“Why was this information not provided to Congress and had to be released by a whistleblower and, subsequently, by the media?” the senator continued. “How can Congress and veterans be assured that this issue will not occur again with future benefit changes?”
The senator asked the VA for a person who could modify the agency’s system so combat veterans can enroll without a means test.
He was also concerned that the department did not do enough to inform veterans.
McDonald was confronted about the glitch and was asked if he was “aware” of it during a Politico event last week.
“If the individual would give me their name and their phone number I would be happy to check out that particular instance. I like to deal with specifics and not generalities. Customer service is about one-on-one care,” McDonald said at that time.