America's brave men and women in uniform are arguably our nation's greatest assets. They sacrifice their comforts and time with their families—and risk their lives—in order to protect the freedoms of their fellow countrymen. Their unrelenting sacrifice and sense of duty to their homeland are virtues that must be held in the highest regard. Accordingly, our veterans deserve the finest medical care our country can provide. I am committed to working on behalf of all of veterans so that they receive the benefits and care they earned.
In recent years, we have seen a number of troubling issues arise from the Department of Veterans Affairs. From never-ending wait times to data manipulation, it has truly been a low point in this agency’s history. Phoenix VA was, unfortunately, ground-zero for many of these injustices. I have been leading the charge to improve care for our nation's veterans and to clean up the Phoenix VA. House Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller recently stated, "Paul Gosar was a reliable ally in the fight to expose corruption at the Phoenix VA hospital. He is a strong advocate for Arizona's veterans."
I have passed 13 appropriations amendments to improve care for our nation's veterans including:
Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act
In the wake of the VA scandals, Congress came together to pass important relief for our nation’s veterans. H.R. 3230, the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, was signed into law in August of 2014. The bill allows veterans that have waited longer than 30 days or live more than 40 miles away to be seen by non-VA doctors, and for the doctors to then be reimbursed by the VA. The bill also provided resources for hiring new physicians and medical personnel. Finally, the legislation made important reforms that allowed for VA bureaucrats to be demoted or fired. It may not be a perfect system at this time, but this act is allowing for thousands of veterans to get the care for which they would otherwise wait months.
The scars of combat sometimes linger with our veterans after they return home. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has become a common diagnosis among out vets, and we must do what we can to show the same support they have shown each of us. I have offered multiple amendments to the Military Construction, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon/VA) Appropriations Acts to transfer funds from an increasingly large VA bureaucracy to more important mental health programs and suicide prevention efforts. 18 to 22 veterans a day are simply giving up on life. Efforts must be improved on this front, because even one veteran suicide is too many. CLICK HERE to read more.
Reducing Claims and Appeals Backlog
Ensuring our veterans receive care in a timely manner has been one of my top priorities as a member of Congress. With a sharp increase in veterans claims due to the wind-down in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with incompetence and a culture of corruption at the VA, wait times for veterans care at the VA skyrocketed. It has been common to see wait times on initial claims close to one year before any sort of decision is made—and the claims appeals process is even worse. That is why I have offered and passed multiple amendments to reduce the disability claims backlog and lengthy wait times. CLICK HERE to read more.
Prohibiting Recurrence of Falsified Data
Since the initial scandal broke, the American people have actually seen memos and documents from senior VA personnel encouraging VA employees to falsify data to improve (at least on paper) the wait times for claims processing. One such memo is known as “Fast Letter 13-10” which was issued by the VA headquarters in Washington, DC. I was appalled to learn this, so I introduced and passed three amendments in recent years to the MilCon/VA Appropriations Act to prohibit the implementation of that memo as well as the falsification of claims processing times. CLICK HERE to read more.
Veterans Treatment Courts
Veterans Treatment Courts are relatively new, but they have already shown promising results. Many of our nation’s heroes returning from combat are traumatized due to the associated violence and pressure of war and often cope with such feelings with substance abuse. Veterans Courts promote sobriety and recovery through coordinated local partnerships among community corrections agencies, drug treatment providers, the Judiciary, and other important community support groups. Recidivism rates are significantly lower for veterans moving through these courts. I have offered and passed numerous amendments to appropriations bills that provide important resources for these courts. CLICK HERE to read more.
New, Stand-Alone VA Contract Outpatient Clinic in Payson
In recent years, veterans in Payson, Arizona have faced significant burdens obtaining quality health care. The previous doctor that had been serving the area retired and the VA contractor did not have another doctor ready to take over. As a result, local veterans were forced to make long drives to Phoenix for a number of medical issues including obtaining primary care. Veterans in the area began calling for a stand-alone clinic that offered more services to veterans, so I spearheaded an exchange between a private doctor and the VA with the goal of opening such a clinic, cutting out the contracting middle-man. The new clinic has tele-health capabilities that allow for more conditions to be treated onsite which further helps veterans avoid lengthy drives to Phoenix.
Dr. Cameron McKinley Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Center
In the 113th Congress, the House passed my bill into law designating the Department of Veterans Affairs Vet Center in Prescott, Arizona, as the “Dr. Cameron McKinley Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Center”. Dr. McKinley demonstrated extraordinary service in the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Army as well as the Chief Psychologist at the Prescott Veterans Affairs Hospital. His medical service was nothing short of groundbreaking, improving the lives of countless Arizona veterans while specializing in treating post-traumatic stress disorder. CLICK HERE to read more.
Aviation Program at Yavapai College
In 2015, the VA suspended enrollment at Yavapai College in Prescott for over 30 students in the school’s Airline Operations and Helicopter Operations concentrations due to alleged compliance issues. In response, Sen. John McCain and I contacted the Director of Education Service in the Veterans Benefit Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs opposing this action and demanding answers. The decision to suspend the aviation program at Yavapai College may have unfairly put some veteran students on the chopping block. There are veterans who were accepted to this program and uprooted their lives to move to Prescott under the assumption that they were going to pursue an aviation degree. If there are veterans being punished through no fault of their own, then it is the responsibility of the VA to clearly justify its rationale and explain how this decision serves the best interests of our nation’s heroes. CLICK HERE to read more.
I have been honoring veterans and active duty service men and women from Arizona’s Fourth Congressional District in a weekly segment on my Facebook page called #MilitaryMonday. I believe these heroes deserve to be recognized for their dedication and sacrifice to this great country. These men and women are why we are able to maintain the freedoms we enjoy and appreciation should be shown to those who deserve it. I am enormously grateful for their contribution to our community, state and country. I consider it an honor to represent them and hope you will join me by thanking them for their service. If you know of a current or former member of the military that you would like to recognize for #MilitaryMonday, send me a message with their contact information at: http://gosar.house.gov/contact-me or facebook.com/repgosar via direct message.
In conclusion, I will continue to push for increased accountability within the VA and do everything in my power to ensure our veterans receive the care they earned in a timely manner.