A picture of Representative Sanford D. Bishop Jr.
Sanford B.
Democrat GA 2

About Rep. Sanford
  • Conference Report on H.R. 3230, Pay Our Guard and Reserve Act

    by Representative Sanford D. Bishop Jr.

    Posted on 2014-07-30

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    BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, at this time, there is no Federal agency more deserving of our attention than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA has served generations of heroes who have sacrificed on behalf of our country and we have an obligation to take care of them when they come home.

    Without a doubt, the American people expect and veterans deserve the best service possible and I firmly believe that it is a duty of all of us in Congress to ensure that no one betrays the sacred trust owed to our Veterans.

    The failure and mismanagement of care for our veterans that has come to light through the IG's investigation over the past two months must never be repeated, and I trust that this bill will go far to help reverse the failures, and ensure better future treatment of veterans at the VA.

    I think this conference report contains provisions that will help provide timely care to veterans, hold the management of the Department of Veterans Affairs accountable, uphold the integrity of the department, and improve education benefits for veterans and their dependants--representing a major step in the right direction in meeting those obligations.

    Specific measures to do so include; providing $5 billion to the VA to hire additional physicians and other medical staff, authorizing a system for the VA to fire or demote management level employees for poor performance or misconduct, and increasing access to non-VA care for those veterans in dire need.

    Yesterday, we were greeted with the good news of the Senate confirmation of the new VA Secretary, Robert McDonald. While the Senate acted swiftly on the confirmation of McDonald, I was disappointed to see that the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman was unable to bring the FY 2015 MilCon/VA Appropriations bill to floor due to objections from the Senate Minority. If we truly wanted to get the ball rolling to make the VA better the Senate Minority should allow the bill to come to the floor.

    Nevertheless, I also have full expectation that with the passage of this conference report it is going to be important that this Congress hold Secretary McDonald and his subordinates fully accountable moving forward.

    [[Page H7085]] Many in Congress are concerned about the cost of this bill. One way to help pay the cost of improved health care for veterans would be to improve third party collections.

    Section 201 of the bill authorizes an independent assessment of a number of VA activities. Among other provisions, the assessment would report on ways to increase funds owed to the VA by third parties.

    Over the past dozen years, the GAO and the VA/OIG have issued more than a dozen reports outlining the problems with third party reimbursement. I hope that the assessment team will not reinvent the wheel.

    We already know that the VA has increased its billings for these services, but its collection rate has decreased or has remained stagnant. As a result, in FY13 alone, the VA failed to collect more than $3 billion in billings. Between FY07 and FY13, the VA left nearly $23 billion on the table.

    The assessment should include specific directives for the improvement of the entire billings and collections process--from initial billing to denied claims to appeals of denied claims. The private sector seeks to maximize reimbursement. The VA should do no less.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Miller) that the House suspend the rules and agree to the conference report on H.R. 3230.

    The question was taken.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds being in the affirmative, the ayes have it.

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