tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN May 21, 2014 9:00pm-11:01pm EDT
australian navy carrier when the two ships collided. the melbourne ripped the american destroyer in two, the bow sank in seconds, 74 sailors perished. though they were in the south china sea, their names have been excluded from the vietnam memorial because it was outside the designated combat zone which determines inclusion on the wall. though they didn't die this direct combat, they were instrumental in advancing objectives in vietnam and participated in the conflict just days before the collision. i thank the chairman for allowing this amendment which would encourage the addition of their names to the wall. i yield back. the chair: the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from california is recognized. mr. mckeon: i yield two minutes to the gentleman from michigan. the chair: the gentleman from chigan is recognized for two minutes. mr. walberg: i want to thank the chairman for including this
amendment en bloc. as our men and women transition out of the armed forces, they are confronted with a number of challenges as they reintegrate into civilian life. my amendment offers a simple change to current d.o.d. policy that i believe will greatly benefit our service members as they return home. based on bipartisan legislation i've introduced, the service members transition improvement act, this amendment would require a pilot program at d.o.d. to transmit a comprehensive copy of a service member's information to state veterans agencies. veterans service agencies are a powerful resource, helping veterans through job assistance programs and navigating the benefits they have earned. this legislation will enable veterans services offices to assist service officers who reside in their communities and confirms that caring for our men and women in uniform does not end when they leave military service. also, madam chairman, i rise today in support of my bipartisan amendment with mr. cohen of tennessee to prohibit new funds for the afghanistan
infrastructure fund and ensure american tax dollars are invested wisely. we have already spent billions of dollars toward rebuilding the infrastructure of afghanistan and congress has appropriated over $1.2 billion alone to the afghanistan infrastructure fund since it was created in 2011. in their most recent report, it was reported that only $229 million of the $1.2 billion congress has appropriated has actually been disbursed for projects. more importantly, it's been repeat lid found that the probablies which are under way are behind schedule and years away from completion. without any assurance that these projects are needed or can be completed, let's focus these funds on growing our economy, investing in american infrastructure and paying off our debt. i want to thank chairman mckeon for accepting this amendment in the en bloc and would encourage my colleagues to vote in support of it. and i yield back. the chair: the gentleman from michigan yields back.
the gentleman from washington is recognized. mr. smith: thank you, madam chair. i now yield two minutes to the gentlelady from illinois, ms. duckworth. the chair: the gentlewoman from illinois is recognized for two minutes. ms. duckworth: thank you. i thank the gentleman for yielding. i rise in support of the en bloc package, including my amendment, which will strength our military families. mr. speaker, last mother's day i traveled to afghanistan with a bipartisan group of members of congress. we heard firsthand about the difficult mental and physical challenges our brave service men and women must overcome. one such challenge was their maternity leave policy which is and n line with the family medical leave act. currently they can take six weeks of maternity leave. this is six weeks less than mandated by the family and medical leave act. my amendment, which is based on my widely supported bipartisan bill, the military opportunities for mothers or m.o.m. act, would give service
members the option of extending leave to the same amount that's guaranteed to their civilian sisters. it has received widespread support because my colleagues have heard from female service members and veterans on how bad weeks licy of just six is for the retention of talented women, morale and mental health. i urge my colleagues to support this amendment and give our military mothers a chance at a healthier, stronger future for their families and our country. extending maternity leave for these women is the least we can do for those who sacrificed so much for our country. thank you and i yield back. the chair: the gentlewoman yields back the balance of her time. the gentleman from california is recognized. mr. mckeon: i yield two minutes to my friend and colleague, a member of the armed services committee, the gentleman from colorado, mr. coffman. the chair: the gentleman from colorado is recognized for two minutes. mr. coffman: thank you, and thank you, mr. chairman, for your service to our nation. as the chairman of the house armed services committee, as a veteran, i deeply appreciate
all you've done. and will do until the end of your term. i rise in support of this en bloc amendment to the national defense authorization act, because it contains an amendment i offered which provides service members diagnosed with a mental health condition who have been discharged access to a physician with special mental health training to provide an additional level of expert review on appeal. according to the congressional research service, from 2001 to 2011, well over 900,000 service members were diagnosed with at least one mental health condition. while the majority of those diagnosed were able to continue serving, many were ultimately discharged from the military either directly for their mental health issues or for conduct linked to those
diagnoses. current law insufficiently equips service members diagnosed with a mental health disorder during appeal of a discharge. my amendment corrects this injustice. and ensures fairness for those suffering from mental health issues. as a result of their service to our nation. i urge my colleagues to support this en bloc amendment, thank you and i yield back. the chair: the gentleman yields back the balance of his time. the gentleman from washington is recognized. mr. smith: thank you, madam chair. i now yield one minute to the gentleman from florida, mr. murphy. the chair: the gentleman from florida is recognized for one minute. mr. murphy: thank you, madam chair. i want to thank the gentleman from washington for yielding. i want to thank the chairman for his efforts on this evening's work. i rise today in support of my amendment to improve meble mental health and suicide -- mental health and suicide prevention for our nation's veterans. every day our country loses 22 of our nation's heroes to
suicide. this heartbreaking statistic remains a devastating reality that should shake every member in this house. truly providing our heroes with the respect and care they have earned means treating not only physical but invisible wounds as well. with damning reports about the v.a. failing our veterans and our country, my amendment would insist on more accountability by requiring an independent third party evaluation of existing suicide prevention efforts to improve coordination and integration between the d.o.d. and the v.a. outcomes of service member and veteran suicide prevention programs are too important to be left to government agencies, particularly ones embroiled in scandal. i urge my colleagues to support my amendment. our nation must not continue to fail those who served us so bravely. i yield back. the chair: the gentleman's time has expired.
the gentleman from california has one minute remaining. mr. mckeon: continue to reserve. the chair: the gentleman from washington has five minutes remaining. the gentleman from california reserves. mr. smith: thank you, madam chair. i yield one minute to the gentlelady from illinois, ms. duckworth. the chair: the gentlewoman from illinois is recognized for one minute. ms. duckworth: thank you, madam chair. i rise in support of my amendment and the next which is included in the -- which is included in the next en bloc amendment. in my district and across the country, small businesses are the backbone of our economy. they innovate, know how to operate on a tight budget and create good-paying jobs. my small businesses in illinois should be able to win government contracts from the department of defense because i know they will do more with taxpayer dollars and provide superior products and services for our military. this amendment would raise the small business prime
contracting goal from 23% to 25% and establish a subcontracting goal of 40% it. would allow small businesses to reap $10 billion annually in new work. these steps will ensure small businesses are able to compete, remain a powerful employment source and save taxpayers money. small businesses are a vital part of illinois' eighth congressional district. that's why last year i came to the house floor to speak on behalf of small business amendments that i offered and that passed. this time i am happy to partner with my colleague, the chairman of the small business committee, to fight for this critical pillar of our country. i urge muecliges to support this amendment -- my colleagues to support this amendment. thank you and i yield back. the chair: the gentlewoman's time has expired. the gentleman from california -- mr. mckeon: reserve. the chair: continues to reserve. the gentleman from washington is recognized. mr. smith: thank you, madam chair. i yield one minute to the gentleman from north carolina, mr. butterfield. the chair: the gentleman from north carolina is recognized
for one minute. mr. butterfield: i thank the ranking member for yielding time this evening. madam speaker, i rise in strong support of the en bloc package that is before us tonight, which includes my amendment that will finally recognize the valiant service of merchant mariners who operated domestically during world war ii. ensuring that individuals who sacrificed so much in service to our country receive the recognition they deserve is one of the most important jobs we have as members of congress. i am grateful for the bipartisan support my amendment has received from colleagues like my good friends, ms. hahn from california and walter jones from north carolina. with support for my amendment from coast-to-coast, i am proud to stand here today one step closer to correcting an injustice that has remained for over 70 years. madam speaker, after 70 long years, these mariners deserve to receive recognition for their service to our country. i thank the chairman, i thank the ranking member for including this amendment in the en bloc package this evening and i ask my colleagues to
support final pass and. thank you for yielding time. i yield back. the chair: the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from california continues to reserve. the gentleman from washington is recognized. mr. smith: we have no further speakers. i yield the balance of our time. the chair: the gentleman from washington yields back his time. the gentleman from california is recognized for one minute. mr. mckeon: madam chair, i encourage our colleagues to support the en bloc amendment and i yield back the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman from california yields back. the question is on the amendments en bloc offered by the gentleman from california. those in favor say aye. those opposed, no. in the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it. the en bloc amendments are agreed to. for what purpose does the gentleman from california seek recognition?
mr. mckeon: pursuant to h.res. 590 i offer amendments en bloc. the chair: the clerk will designate the amendments en bloc. the clerk: en bloc number 4, consisting of amendments number 66, 69, 70, 3, 64, 1, 73, 74, 75, 76, 110, 112, 125, 138, 156, 157 and 160, printed in part a of house report 113-460 offered by mr. mckeon of california. the chair: pursuant to house resolution 590, the gentleman from california, mr. mckeon, and the gentleman from washington, mr. smith, each will control 10 minutes. the chair recognizes the gentleman from california. mr. mckeon: madam chair, i urge the committee to adopt the amendments en bloc. all of which have been examined by both the majority and the minority and i reserve the
balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman from california reserves. the gentleman from washington is recognized. mr. smith: thank you, madam chair. i yield myself such time as i may consume. the chair: the gentleman is recognized. mr. smith: i agree with the chairman that we should adopt the en bloc amendments. i did want to take a moment here. we don't have any speakers on this, to make a couple of comments about some rules committee decisions that i have not had a chance to speak about before. overall, again, i applaud the product that we have created here in a bipartisan way, and i thank the chairman for doing that, i do think it's unfortunate that the rules committee ruled out of order a number of amendments. two of them were mine. one was to offer a brack amendment, to give members of congress a chance to vote on it. the other was to offer up the administration's proposal to lay-up 14 navy vessels in an effort to save money. there's several problems with the fact that these amendments were ruled out of order. the biggest one is one of the arguments that i've made of concern about this bill from the very beginning.
even though i support the product and there is a lot of very good things in this bill, i think the weakness of it and the thing that we are going to have to confront when we go to conference, is the fact that it delays every single difficult decision. during the debate, during general debate yesterday a couple of people commented, you know, they liked the bill for a variety of reasons and said it made some tough choices and i asked a couple of times to name one. i don't believe we did make a tough choice. when you look at the issues that we face in terms of the budget, we ducked every single one of them. we have both sequestration for another eight years, but even if sequestration doesn't come, we also have substantial cuts coming to the defense budget as a result of sequestration in f.y. 2013 and a series of c.r.'s and a series of cuts to the defense budget that we did not anticipate. we are going to have substantially less money over the course of the next 10 years for defense than we thought we were going to have. and that's true even if
sequestration goes away. now, sequestration happens, we really face a challenge. so the question is, how are we going to restructure our defense plans to deal with the fact that we're going to have substantially less money than we had going forward? and the answer in this bill is we're not going to deal with it this year. we're going to hope things get better and maybe deal with it next year. and the administration confronted this problem in a number of areas. i'll walk through them. number one, personnel costs, they found savings in health care by expanding what service members would have to pay for their health care. they reduced somewhat the subsidy to our come is areas and reduced the housing subsidy and pay raise down to 1% and got rid of it for senior officers except for the last part of that, we bucked all of those, $2 billion
over five years the administration was able to save. nothing was offered or done on our part to deal with it. the army has put together a plan to restructure their helicopters in a way that's way too complicated to explain by saves money. we put into our bill an amendment saying they can't do it at all in 2015 and also added one of the en bloc amendments was an amendment that says we have to study it for a longer period of time even beyond that. that is another $12 billion and we don't make it up anywhere because it's over five years. i mentioned the navy issue, 14 ships that the navy has said they will weigh up to save money, $3.5 billion. we got rid of that in order to pay for it in the short temperature. we didn't cut something else, we
raided the ship modernization account to fund that in the short-term that does not address the problem. d.o.d. proposed getting rid of the a-10 and u-2. we stopped them from doing both of those things. we have at every turn blocked just about every single proposal administration has made to save over the long-term. in each one of those isolated incidents, there are strong arguments, in other words, if it is in your district or neighborhood, you raise up and argue against it, but there may be arguments why that isn't the best choice. there is no alternative. we got creative in our accounting to get through 2015. these are mostly five-year savings so we can stagger our way through 2015 and create a massive wave down the road that we are not at all proposed -- prepared to do that.
brac, we are wasting $6 billion on facilities we don't need. and the only argument that exists given how much we have drawn down or force estimates d they are 25% over capacity is members don't want to have base closed in their district. i get that. there are a ton of bases in the state of washington, but we have to confront these issues because the money isn't going to mackically appear. i was hoping to have the broader debate about making the choices now. and i don't think we should rubber stamp what the white house has done. if we don't like those cuts, let's come up with another one. this is the conversation i had with my adjutant who was concerned about the army guard and air force guard. and and i said look, present me
an alternative that says how we are going to save $12 billion. i'm happy to look at it, but to say we don't like the cuts, i get that. most people don't like the cuts. but they are there. we passed the budget control act. we shut down the government. we passed the budget agreement last year that set the levels f.y. 2015.14 and and eight more years of sequestration. if congress doesn't want the administration to make these choices, we have to step up and make the decisions now about where we are going to be in terms of the budget. the final point i will make on that, what happens when we don't make those decisions, is readiness gets cut. this bill, readiness is cut $1.2 billion from the president's request and $136 million and that is readiness as
well because they use the account. $1.8 billion out of the readiness that was already depleted because of the shutdowns and c.r.'s. what is readiness? it's not the size of the force. readiness is the capability of the force. are the troops trained and equipped to perform the missions that we have asked them to do. the chairman has quite eloquently on a number of occasions point todd past wars, korean war, world war ii and we sent troops over that weren't ready to fight and many of them were killed and injured because they were not ready to fight. if we stop brac, to stop the pentagon from cutting the one-2 or a-10 or shutting down a guard unit, if they do that, they have to raid readiness. spend less on fuel, don't repair
some equipment, you fly less, train less and we end up with a hollow force that nobody wants. as we go into conference as we go forward, it is our obligation as a congress to say, what is our plan. and right now, our plan is hope. and this is something -- i didn't serve in the military but i heard very early on one of the sayings is hope is not a strategy. we are hoping that the money will appear and hopefully we won't have to make those decisions. but we are past that point sm the decisions are going to get made. going to get made poorly if we ignore them or preferably they will get made well and put together a force that no matter the size that is capable and ready to perform the missions. i think ruling those amendments ruled out of order -- we won't
have this debate. there is no ducking this but i guess you can retire. you won't be here, but the country will have to deal with those decisions one way or the other and we thus far have not made them. if we aren't going to do a brac, what are we going to do? let's get concrete proposals on the table. there is something other than don't cut anything in my back yard and closing our eyes and hoping the problem will go away. with that, i yield back. the chair: the gentleman yields back the balance of his time. the gentleman from california is recognized. mr. mckeon: at this time, i yield two minutes to my friend and colleague and member of the armed services committee, gentlewoman from indiana, ms. walorski. the chair: the gentlewoman is recognized. mrs. walorski: i thank you for including this amendment. israel and the united states
face common threats in the middle east from the ongoing war in syria, continued rocket fire from terrorist organizations in the gaza strip and nuclear armed iran. iran's brazen quest for nuclear weapons poses a threat to our ally israel. it would trigger an arms race in the middle east destabilizing a region and in the process threatening u.s. national security and international stability. military action against iran is an absolute last resort after we exhaust all peaceful options. it would be irresponsible not to prepare for a worst-case scenario. this amendment would require the administration to certify that israel maintains an independent capability to remove threats to its own security. specifically this report would ensure the smooth transfer to israel of aerial refueling tankers, advanced bumpinger buster and platforms critical to
israel. this is an important amendment to the security of the u.s. and our ally israel. hank you and i yield back. the chair: the gentlewoman yields back. the gentleman from california is recognized. mr. mckeon: i encourage our colleagues to support the en bloc amendment and i yield back the balance of my time. the chair: the question is on the amendments en bloc offered by the gentleman from california. those in favor say aye. those opposed, no. in the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it. the en bloc amendments are agreed to. for what purpose does the gentleman from california seek recognition? mr. mckeon: pursuant to h.res. 590, i offer amendments en bloc. the chair: the clerk will designate the amendments en bloc. the clerk: amendments number 77, 88,79, 780, 83, 84, 85, 87,
1 90, 107, 108, 11, 116 and 135. offered by mr. mckeon of california. the chair: pursuant to house resolution 590, the gentleman from california, mr. mckeon and the gentleman from from washington, mr. smith, each will control 10 minutes, the chair recognizes the gentleman from california. mr. mckeon: i urge the committee to adopt the amendments en bloc all of which have been examined and h the majority minority and i reserve my time. the chair: the gentleman from california reserves. the gentleman from washington is recognized. mr. smith: i concur with the chairman that we should pass the en bloc amendment. i have no speakers. so i yield back my time. the chair: the gentleman from washington yields back. the gentleman from california is recognized.
mr. mckeon: madam chair, i yield two minutes at this time, to my friend and colleague the gentleman from illinois, mr. shimkus. the chair: the gentleman from illinois is recognized for two minutes. without objection. mr. shimkus: thank you, madam speaker. great to be here. i know it's at the end of the debate. thank bud mckeon for doing a great job as the chairman and i know as adam will do, will recognize your service, and this is a great bill. adam, thank you for your friendship and support. part of this en bloc amendment is the black ribbon day and i worked with congressman engel to make sure it was vetted and cleared and the basic premise is the country has to understand the importance of knowing the past to survive in the world of the present. and so i deal with the battleic
issues and eastern european causes and the world has significantly changed. as i said earlier in this debate about the threat from russia. so the black ribbon day recognizes the victims of communism and the holocaust and he golaug and deportation so when vladimir putin makes a claim protecting the russian minority is because what they did post-world war ii is they removed forcefully to siberia ethnics and moved in russians. the world is not a safer place today. it's important for us to remember the events of the past so we can defend the freedoms of the future. mr. chairman, thank you for including this in your en bloc amendment. to my friend adam from washington state, thank you for your support. i don't get a chance to talk
about on defense and ndaa, you know i served in the military and i have great for what you have done in trying to strengthen the force. it's an honor to get a chance to work with both of you and i yield back the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman from illinois yields back. the gentleman from california is recognized. mr. mckeon: i encourage my colleagues to support the en bloc amendment and i yield back. the chair: the question is on the amendments offered en bloc offered by the gentleman from california. those in favor say aye. those opposed, no. in the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it, the en bloc amendments are agreed to. for what purpose does the gentleman from california seek recognition? mr. mckeon: pursuant to h.res. 590, i offer amendments en bloc. the chair: the clerk will designate the amendments en bloc. the clerk: en bloc number 6 consisting of amendments 92, 93,
103, 96, 99, 101, 102, 124, 129, 21, 123, 145 and 155, printed in part a of house report 113-460 offered by mr. mckeon of california. the chair: the gentleman from california mr. mckeon and the gentleman from washington, mr. smith, each will control 10 minutes, the chair recognizes the gentleman from california. mr. mckeon: madam chair i urge the committee to adopt the amendments en bloc all of which have been examined by both the majority and the minority. the chair: the gentleman from california reserves? mr. mckeon: i reserve.
the chair: the gentleman from washington is recognized. mr. smith: i concur. we should adopt the en bloc amendments and i have no speech and i will yield back the balance of our time. the chair: the gentleman from washington yields back. the gentleman from california is recognized. mr. mckeon: i encourage our colleagues to support the en bloc amendment and i yield back. the chair: the gentleman from california yields back. the question is on the amendments offered en bloc offered by the gentleman from california. those in favor say aye. those in favor say aye. those opposed, no. in the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it. the en bloc amendments are agreed to. . for what purpose does the gentleman from california seek recognition? mr. mckeon: i offer amendments en bloc. the chair: the clerk will designate the amendments en bloc. the clerk: en bloc number 7, consisting of amendments mbered 57, 65, 67, 106, 114,
131, 132, 27, 129, 4, 137, 1142, 149, 150, 151, 152, 154, 158, 159 and 162 printed in part a of house report 113-460 offered by mr. mckeon of california. mr. mckeon: madam chair, i ask unanimous consent that amendment number 134 be modified in the form i have placed at the desk. the chair: the clerk will report the modification. the clerk: modification to amendment number 134, offered by mr. shimkus of illinois. mr. mckeon: madam chair. i ask unanimous consent that the reading of the modification be dispensed with. the chair: is there objection? hearing no objection, the reading is suspended.
dispensed with. mr. mckeon: i ask unanimous consent that amendment number 159 be modified in the form i have placed at the desk. he chair: the clerk will report. the clerk: modification to amendment number 159, offered by mr. -- mr. mckeon: madam chair, i ask unanimous con sents that the reading of the modification -- consent that the reading of the modification be dispensed with. the chair: is there objection? without objection, the reading is dispensed with. pursuant to house resolution 590, the gentleman from california, mr. mckeon, and the gentleman from washington, mr. smith, each will control 10 minutes. the chair recognizes the gentleman from california. mr. mckeon: madam chair, i urge the committee to adopt the -- to adopt the amendments en bloc and i reserve the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman from california reserves. the gentleman from washington is recognized.
mr. smith: thank you, madam chair. i concur again in support for the en bloc amendments and just want to -- i'll yield myself such time as i may consume. this is the last amendment. i just want to say thank you again to chairman mckeon. i think it is right that this bill was named after him. he's done a fabulous job in our committee, as we've said, so i appreciate his hard work and once again putting together this -- in once again putting together this product and i particularly want to thank the staff. this is a very large bill. lots of amendments are offered both at the committee level and on the house level. staff has to make sense of it, keep us informed. they do an incredible job and an incredible service to our country and to the men and women who serve in the military by making sure that this bill gets done every year. so i very much appreciate that and i want to particularly recognize deborah watta from the staff who will soon be leaving us. she has been promoted to be the assistant secretary of the army for man power and reserve affairs. deborah served -- has served 15
years as staff on this committee and is an invaluable source of knowledge and personnel on many, many other issues. it's been great working with her. we congratulate her on her appointment and wish her the best and again she is but one example of an absolutely fantastic staff and the great work that they do to put this product together every single year. we thank you and with that i yield back the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman from washington yields back. without objection, the modifications reported earlier are agreed to. the gentleman from california is recognized. mr. mckeon: madam chair, i yield two minutes to my friend and colleague, the gentleman from indiana, mr. young. the chair: the gentleman from indiana is recognized for two minutes. mr. young: thank you, madam chair. i rise today in support of my simple amendment to ensure fairness in how we treat military installations after they are closed. most military installations are closed through the brack
process. as such they're granted certain legal protections, including indemnification from claims arising from environmental hazards created by previous d.o.d. operations. however, some installations can be closed unilaterally by the defense secretary outside of the normal process. in these instances, the facilities are not granted the same protections. as it turns out, many former army ammunition plants were closed outside the normal procedure. as you might imagine, facilities where chemicals for ammunition production were once mixed and discarded tend to pose some risk to the environment. and yet merely because of the way they were closed down, cities and towns which later tried to redevelop that property must assume the risk for any lingering environmental hazards. my amendment would simply extend the same protection enjoyed by most closed installations to all closed installations. two years ago i offered a
similar amendment that was added to the house-passed ndaa, but it was not included in the senate-passed version, nor was it included in the conference report. that version would have retroactively applied this protection to properties which have already been transferred. i've heard the concern from d.o.d. and others about adding this benefit on top of previously negotiated contracts. i'm sensitive to those concerns and so this updated language only applies to those properties which are still under d.o.d. control today. i think this adequately addresses those concerns and it still ensures there's equity in how we handle these properties in the future. i'd like to thank the gentleman from california, chairman mckeon, for his work once again in putting together this ndaa. i'd also like to thank him and his staff for working with our office to draft this amendment and include it as part of this amendment package. thank you and i yield back. the chair: the gentleman's time has expired.
the gentleman from california is recognized. mr. mckeon: madam chair, i yield one minute to my friend and colleague, the gentleman from pennsylvania, mr. perry. the chair: the gentleman from pennsylvania is recognized for one minute. mr. perry: thank you, madam speaker. i'd like to thank mr. graves from missouri for taking the lead on this amendment and chairman mckeon for including this amendment in this en bloc package. after 12 years of combat coming to a close, and shifting security priorities, the commission to evaluate army force structure is indeed appropriate. the pentagon is still operating with the assumptions, metrics and policies from the early 2000's. what we need to be doing is looking at shaping the force of the future. what the future missions and force mixture between active, guard, reserve should be is a question that should be thoroughly assessed. to determine how the future of our total army will be shaped for decades to come, we should select the more comprehensive
commission and take the additional few months to do a comprehensive anal sills with the best personnel -- analysis with the best personnel and minds available. madam speaker, the security of the nation depends upon it. and i yield back. the chair: the gentleman yields back the balance of his time. the gentleman from california is recognized. mr. mckeon: madam chair, i hink we're about done. i would like to at this time thank my partner. for four years we've had the opportunity of leading this committee and i could not have had a better person to be working with than mr. smith from washington. he's straightforward, he's honest, he's hard working and we just i think have had a really good working relationship and i consider him and will always consider him a friend.
like wise -- likewise i want to echo the things he said about the committee. . want to thank them we get all the applause, people get up and thank us and say we've done a great -- great job, but it's these people behind us, our committee, our staff, that make it easy to do this. i mean, we could have been here until 1:00, 2:00 this morning. but the work that they've done to make it look kind of easy, kind of smooth, they have been working on for hours, for days, weeks and months leading up to his point. i don't know much more to say other than thank you, you're great americans. and people like to beat up on government workers. all i can say is they're not
paid enough for what they do. they can't be paid enough. they are pate rots, they're dedicated -- patriots, they're dedicated to this work and to our men and women in uniform and their families and i thank them for that. with that, madam chair, i encourage our colleagues to support the en bloc amendment and yield back the balance of my time. the chair: the question is on the amendments en bloc as modified offered by the gentleman from california. those in favor say aye. those opposed, no. in the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it. the en bloc amendments as odified are agreed to.
for what purpose does the gentleman from california seek recognition? mr. mckeon: madam chair, i move hat the committee do now rise. the chair: the question is on the motion that the committee rise. those in favor say aye. those opposed, no. the ayes have it. the motion is adopted. accordingly, the committee rises. the speaker pro tempore: madam chair. the chair: mr. speaker, the committee of the whole house on the state of the union, having had under consideration h.r. 4435, direct mess to report that it has come to no -- directs me to report that it has come to no resolution thereon. the speaker pro tempore: the chair of the committee of the
whole house on the state of the union reports that the has had under consideration h.r. 4435 and has come to no resolution thereon. the chair lays before the house the following personal requests. the clerk: leave of absence requested for mr. hults camp of kansas for today, ms. slaughter for today and the balance of the week. the speaker pro tempore: without objection, the request ares granted. -- the requests are granted. for what purpose does the gentlewoman from north carolina seek recognition? ms. foxx: mr. speaker, i ask
unanimous consent that when the house adjourns today it adjourn to meet at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. the speaker pro tempore: without objection, so ordered. the chair will now entertain requests for one-minute speeches. for what purpose does the gentleman from nebraska seek recognition? the gentleman is recognized for one minute. mr. fortenberry: thank you, mr. speaker. we just heard an extensive debate about the future of america's defense policy. and i want to commend the chairman for including an important amendment that i offered that does address a serious, serious issue. it is very hard to react to something that has not happened yet and frankly we are in a race between collaboration or
catastrophe in regards to nuclear security and the threat of nuclear proliferation around the world. this technology is spreading very, very rapidly. in the department's effort at cost savings and reorganization, it is important that our nonproliferation efforts not slip, not become a second priority. it may be easy to do that because again, when things don't happen it appears that we are secure. but this is one of the most grave difficulties facing not only the united states but all of humanity. so i'm very grateful that in this bill we now have an effort to demand that the department explain its important reorganization efforts and how it is going to address the future of nonproliferation issues. as we work toward nuclear security, robust force strength and deterrence, nonproliferation goes hand in hand with those important national security elements. thank you, mr. speaker, i yield back and i move to adjourn. the speaker pro tempore: the question is on the motion to adjourn.
up national security issues. the house will work on a bill that will reform the surveillance program. as it gets approval by the intelligence courts. >> the headline on your pieces they have changed to -- it alarms privacy advocates. what are they concerned about? >> there are two committees. up thision that showed week had some significant changes. one of them had to do with the
specific selection terms. this is essentially when the government goes to the court and says this is the piece of information we want. we want to get information related to this is a fixed term will stop they gave examples of what those terms would be all stop for example, it could be my phone number or address. the bill has more broad language will stop this could allow for mass collection. they could go to the courts. it could be on entire area code will stop everything is associated with the all stop >> fewer study chance to watch some of those markups with the two committees. who should we look for? who is leading that on both sides of the aisle? >> the judiciary committee chairman, you could hear from
the leaders of the intelligence committee. speak. almost certainly we saw from the judiciary committee that it was compromised. there were things that represented an emergency provision will stop that would allow for the government to query deeded -- data faster. this is also a provision that seems to win some of the intelligence committee members overall, by this issue it has bipartisan support and opposition stop >> yes it does. one of the issues now is where you see the senate going to stop senator leahy authored companion legislation to this bill will stop he is already expressing this up i met all stop there were compromises that were made all stop >> let's turn to the senate all stop they are dealing
with national security issues. they advanced the nomination by a vote. what is the headline here. he nears confirmation. it is that advancement though all stop why was there a sense of opposition. correct the issues the world keep late in offering a memo that was justifying the administration's justification for drone strikes. targeted strikes that they used against counterterrorism suspects. that has been a very controversial tactic. who has been a persistent critic of the administration, is the loudest voice in this debate. >> circling back to the white house and the nsa surveillance stop they probably want david aaron's nomination to pass.
what is their view? >> they endorsed it. it should be said that the compromise language that appeared this week seems to have emerged after a closed-door meeting the teen white house officials and house leaders. >> the homeland security editor. you can follow his reporting on twitter. thank you for joining us. >> thank you for having me. >> recent revelations that veterans died well on a waiting list at a veterans affairs center have caused bba to scrutinize delays at its hospitals. parrish and seki met with president obama at the white house. the president talked to the press about management problems at the ba. stop-- va.
at every step of their service. from the moment they take their oath, and archers from fair to deploy, to afghanistan, where they put their lives on the line for security. our wounded warriors fight to recover from terrible injuries. the most searing moments of my presidency involved going to hospitalsd or other and meeting troops to of left a part of themselves on the battlefield.
their spirit and their determination to recover and often to serve again is always an inspiration. to these men and women and their families, they are the best that the country has to offer. they have done their duty and they ask nothing more then that this country does hours. we must uphold our sacred trust to all who have served. hear allegations of misconduct, any misconduct, whether it is allegations of long wait times or cooking the books, i will not stand for it. not as commander-in-chief and not as un-american. none of us showed. if these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable and it
is disgraceful will stop i will not tolerate it. here is what i discussed this first, anybodyp found that manipulated or falsified records at v.a. facilities must be held accountable. the inspector general launched an investigation. have art evenls put on administrative leave. i know that people are angry and want swift reckoning. i sympathize with that. but we have to let the investigators do their job and get to the bottom of what happened. our veterans deserve to know the facts. their families deserve to know the facts. once we know the facts, i assure you if there's misconduct it will be punished. second, i want to know the full scope of this problem. that's why i ordered secretary shinseki to investigate. today he updated me on his
review which is looking not just at the phoenix facility but also v.a. facilities across the nation. and i expect preliminary results from that review next week. third, i've directed rob nabors to conduct a broader review of the veterans' health administration, the part of the v.a. that delivers health care to our veterans. and rob's going to phoenix today. keep in mind, though, even if we had not heard reports out of this phoenix facility or other facilities, we all know that it often takes too long for veterans to get the care that they need. that's not a new development. it's been a problem for decades. and it's been compounded by more than a decade of war. that's why when i came into office i said we would systematically work to fix these problems and we have been working really hard to address them. my attitude is, for folks who have been fighting on the battlefield, they should not
have to fight a bureaucracy at home to get the care that they have earned. so the presumption has always been we've got to do better. rob's review will be a comprehensive look at the veterans' health administration's approach currently to access to care. i want to know what's working, i want to know what is not working, and i want specific recommendations on how v.a. can up their game. i expect that full report from rob next month. number four, i said that i expect everyone involved to work with congress, which has an born oversight role to play. i welcome congress as a partner in our efforts, not just to address the current controversies but to make sure we are doing right by our veterans across the board. i have served on the veterans' affairs committee when i was in the senate, and it was one of the proudest piece of business that i did in the legislature. i know the folks over there care deeply about our veterans.
it is important that our veterans don't become another political football. especially when so many of them are receiving care right now. this is an area where democrats and republicans should always be working together. which brings me to my final point. even as we get to the bottom of what happened at phoenix and other facilities, all of us, whether here in washington or all across the country, have to stay focused on the larger mission, which is upholding our sacred trust to all of our veterans. bringing the v.a. system into the 21st century, which is not an easy task. we have made progress over the last five years. we have made historic investments in our veterans. we boosted v.a. funding to record levels. and we created consistency through advanced appropriations
so that veterans organizations knew their money would be there regardless of political wrangling in washington. we made v.a. benefits available to more than two million veterans who did not have it before, delivering disability pay to more vietnam vets exposed to agent orange, making it easier for veterans with posttraumatic stress and mental health issues and traumatic brain injury to get treatment. and improving care for women's veterans. because of these steps and the influx of new veterans requiring services added in many cases to wait times, we launched an all-out war on the disability claims backlog. and in just the past year alone we have slashed that backlog by half. of course we are not going to let up because it's still too high. we are going to keep at it until we eliminate the backlog once and for all. meanwhile, we are also reducing homelessness among our veterans.
we are helping veterans and their families, more than a million so far, pursue their education under the post-9/11 g.i. bill. 678 we are stepping up our efforts to help our newest veterans get the skills and training to find jobs when they come home. along with michelle and joe and jill biden joining forces we have helped thousands of veterans find a job. more veterans are finding work and veterans' unemployment, although still way too high, is coming down. the point is caring for our veterans is not an issue that popped up in recent weeks. some of the problems with respect to how veterans are able to access the benefits that they have earned, that's not a new issue. that's an issue i was working on when i was running for the united states senate. taking care of our veterans and their families has been one of the causes of my presidency, and it is something that all of us
have to be involved with and had to be paying attention . to we ended the war in iraq, and as our war in afghanistan ends and as our newest veterans are coming home, the demands on the v.a. are going to grow. so we are going to have to redouble our efforts to get it right as a nation. and we have to be honest that there are and will continue to be areas where we've got to do a lot better. so today i want every veteran to know we are going to fix whatever is wrong and so long as i have the privilege of serving as commander in chief i'm going to keep on fighting to deliver the care and the benefits and the opportunities that your families deserve.
that is a commitment that i feel a sacred duty to maintain. so with that, i will take westerns. >> thank you, mr. president. as you say, this is a cause of your presidency, you ran on this issue, you mentioned. why was it allowed to get to this stage where you actually had potentially 40 veterans who died while waiting for treatment? that's an extreme circumstance. >> we have to find out first of all what exactly happened. i don't want to get ahead of the i.g. report or the other investigations that are being done. i think it is important to recognize that the wait times generally what the i.g. indicated so far at least is the wait times were for folks who may have had chronic conditions, were seeking their next appointment, but may have already received service. it was not necessarily a situation where they were calling for emergency services. and the i.g. indicated that he did not see a link between the wait and them actually dying.
that does not excuse the fact that the wait times in general are too long in some facilities. so what we have to do is find out what exactly happened. we have to find out how can we realistically cut some of these wait times. there has been a large influx of new veterans coming in. we have a population of veterans that is also aging as part of the baby boom population. and we've got to make sure that the scheduling system, the access to the system that all those things are in sync. there are parts of the v.a. health care system that have performed well. and what we have seen is, for example, satisfaction rates in many facilities and with respect to many providers has been high. but what we are seeing is that in terms of how folks get
scheduled, how they get in the system, there are still too many problems. i'm going to get a complete property. it is not, as a consequence, people not caring about the problem, but there are 85 million appointments scheduled among veterans during the course of a year. that's a lot of appointments. and that means that we've got to have a system that is built in order to be able to take those folks in in a smooth fashion, that they know what to expect, that they -- it's reliable and it means the v.a. has to set standards it meets. if it can't do it right now, it has to set realistic goals how they improve the system overall. responsibility rests with
shinseki? >> the responsibility for things always rests ultimately with me as the president and commander in chief. eric shinseki has been a great soldier. he himself is a disabled veteran. and nobody cares more about our rick shinseki. if you ask me how do i think rick shinseki has performed overall? i would say that on homelessness, on 9/11 g.i. bill, on working with us to reduce the backlog across the board he has put his heart and soul into this thing and taken it very seriously. i said to rick and said it to him today, i want to see what the results of these reports are, and there is going to be accountability. and i'm going to expect even before the reports are done that we are seeing significant improvement in terms of how the admissions process takes place in all of our v.a. health care
facilities. so i know he cares about it deeply. and he has been a great public servant and a great warrior on behalf of the united states of america. we are going to work with him to solve the problem. but i am going to make sure that there is accountability throughout the system after i get the full report. steve from reuters. >> thank you, sir. has secretary shinseki offered to resign? if he's not to blame, who is? were you caught by surprise by these allegations? >> rick shinseki i think serves this country because he cares deeply about veterans and he cares deeply about the mission.
and i know that rick's attitude is if he does not think he can do a good job on this, and if he thinks he's let our veterans down, then i'm sure that he is not going to be interested in continuing to serve. at this stage rick is committed to solving the problem, and working with us to do it. and i am going to do everything in my power using the resources of the white house to help that process of getting to the bottom of what happened and fixing it. but i'm also going to be waiting to see what the results of all this review process yields. i don't yet know how systemic this is. i don't yet know are there a lot of other facilities that have been cooking the books? or is this just an episodic problem? we know that essentially wait times have been a problem for decades in all kinds of circumstances with respect to the v.a. getting benefits, getting health care, etc. some facilities do better than others.
a couple years ago the veteran'' affairs set a goal of 14 days for wait times. what's not yet clear to me is whether enough tools were given to make sure those goals were actually met. and i won't know until the full report is put forward as to whether there was enough management follow-up to ensure that those folks on the front lines who are doing scheduling had the capacity to meet those goals, if they were being evaluated for meeting goals that were unrealistic and couldn't meet because either there weren't enough doctors or the systems weren't in place or what have you. we need to find out who is responsible for setting up those guidelines. there are going to be a lot of questions that we have to
answer. in the meantime, what i said to eric today, is let's not wait for the report retrospectively to reach out immediately to veterans who are currently waiting for appointments to make sure that they are getting better service. that's something that we can initiate right now. we don't have to wait to find out if there was misconduct to dig in and make sure that we are upping our game in all of our various facilities. you know, i do think it is important not just with respect to rick shinseki but with respect to the v.a. generally, to say that every single day there are people working in the v.a. who do outstanding work and put everything they've got into making sure that our veterans get the care, benefits, and services that they need. and so i do want to close by sending a message out there that there are millions of veterans who are getting really good service from the v.a. who are getting really good treatment
from the v.a. i know because i get letters from veterans sometimes asking me to write letters of commendation or praise to a doctor or a nurse or a facility that couldn't have given them better treatment. so this is a big system with a lot of really good people in it who care about our veterans deeply. we have seen the improvements on a whole range of issues like homelessness, like starting to clear the backlog up, like making sure folks who previously weren't even eligible for disability because it was a mental health issue or because it was an agent orange issue are finally able to get those services. i don't want us to lose sight of the fact there are a lot of folks in the v.a. doing a really good job and working really hard at it. that does not, on the other hand, excuse the possibility that, number one, we weren't
just -- we were not doing a good enough job in terms of providing access to folks who need an appointment for chronic conditions. number two, it never excuses the possibility that somebody was trying to manipulate the data in order to look better or make their facility look better. it is critical to make sure that we have good information in order to make good decisions. i want people on the frontline if there's a problem to tell me or tell rick shinseki or tell whoever's their superior this is a problem. don't cover up a problem. do not pretend the problem doesn't exist. if you can't get wait times down to 14 days right now, i want you to let folks up the chain know so we can solve the problem. do we need more doctors? do we need a new system in order to make sure that scheduling and coordination is more effective and more smooth?
is there more follow-up? and that's the thing that right now most disturbs me about the report. the possibility that folks intentionally withheld information that would have helped us fix a problem. there's not a problem out there that's not fixable. it can't always be fixed as quickly as everybody would like, but typically we can chip away at these problems. we have seen this with the backlog. we have seen it with veterans' homelessness. we have seen it with the post 9/11 g.i. bill. initially there were problems with it. they got fixed, and now it's operating fairly smoothly. problems can be fixed, but folks have to let the people that did the reporting to know that there is a problem in order for us to fix it.
-- listen, if somebody's mismanaged or engaged in misconduct, not only do i not want them getting bonuses, i want them punished. that's what we are going to hopefully find out from the i.g. report, as well as the audits taking place. all right. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] jeff miller commented on the remarks by obama, saying -- congressman miller and others in the house reacted to problems at the veterans affairs department by introducing a bill that would give the v.a. secretary authority to fire senior department executives based on their performance. congressman miller begins the 45 minutes of debate on the measure. members may
have five legislative days to revise and extend their remarks on h.r. 4031. the speaker pro tempore: without objection, so ordered. mr. miller: mr. speaker, i yield myself such time as i may consume. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from florida is recognized for such time he may consume. mr. miller: thank you very much, mr. speaker. members, for the past three years the house committee on veterans' affairs has uncovered and continues to uncover numerous instances of gross negligence and incompetence by senior v.a. officials that have led to delays in care, growing patient wait times, and lengthy backlogs of disability claims. regrettably some of these instances have resulted in lack of proper care for veterans and for preventable deaths. despite repeated promises of accountability and change, the committee has received nothing but disturbing silence from the white house and only one excuse from another from the
department of veterans affairs. mr. speaker, we have all seen the heartbreaking news or spoken personally to family after family that's been coming forward sharing their stories of how v.a. has failed to fulfill their promise to our veterans. the time is past due for us as a house of representatives to take action. the troubling stories that have come out of phoenix, arizona, where whistle blowers allege that has many as 40 veterans died while waiting for care, and alleged secret waiting lists are unconscionable if proven true. we would not be doing our sworn duty if we sat idly by and allow these preventable deaths of those who made sacrifices for this great country to become the status quo at the v.a. unfortunately, mr. speaker, these incidents do not seem to be isolated. they are under the watch of not
just one senior v.a. manager. similar stories of mismanagement and negligence have arisen in fort collins, colorado, san antonio, texas, augusta, georgia, memphis, tennessee, columbia, south carolina, pittsburgh, pennsylvania, chicago illinois with news stories being covered almost every single day. mr. speaker, these stories were crystallized for me and other members at a recent hearing that we had on patient wait times on the 9th of april. mr. barry cotes, a veteran from columbia, south carolina, informed the committee that he waited almost a year to receive a colonoscopy at v.a. when he finally received his appointment, it was revealed that he had stage 4 colon cancer. mr. cotes testified, and i quote, the gross negligence and
crippling backlog epidemic of the varks a. health system has not only handed me a death sentence but ruined my quality of life. mr. speaker, the need for accountability to help veterans like mr. cotes is the reason why h.r. 4031 is so critically important. the v.a. management accountability act of 2014 would give the secretary the authority to fire or to demote v.a. senior executive service or equivalent employees based on performance at any time. the current system is so calcified in bureaucratic red tape that it's easier for someone to get a bonus than it is to be given some type of discipline at the department of veterans affairs. is this what our citizens want? is this what our veterans deserve? i don't think so. neither do the 150 bipartisan co-sponsors of this piece of legislation. or the leading v.s.o.'s that
support it. now, the actions of these few seniors executives do not tarnish the hard work of 300,000 frontline v.a. employees who come to work every day and by and large provide excellent care and services to our veterans. but too many of these employees have, in fact, been continually down by poor performing senior executives. it's time to restore their trust and america's trust in the leadership at v.a. look, general shinseki is a good man. he wants to hold others accountable. but he is being held back by a failed civil service system that makes it nearly impossible to remove s.e.s. employees. if this bill becomes law, he and his successors will have no excuse. will he have every tool to hold managers accountable and restore faith in the v.a. and i
am grateful, truly grateful to the 150 sponsors from both sides of the aisle of this vital piece of legislation. i also want to thank the voling v.s.o., veteran service organizations, who have tirelessly advocated on behalf of this bill. american legion, concerned veterans for america, iava, amvets, reserve officers, vietnam veterans of america, and the military officers association of america. finally, i thank leader kantor and speaker boehner for -- cantor and speaker boehner for their help in bringing this bill to the floor. it is time that v.a.'s status quo is upended which is why i believe this bill, the house's earlier action this year to suspend v.a. bonuses for five year, and i call on president obama to establish a bipartisan v.a. medical care access commission is crucial to getting a resolution to this problem. i believe the question presented before each member here today is very clear.
do you stand with our veterans or do you stand with a bureaucratic entrevened failing system? i urge all of my colleagues to support h.r. 4031. and maintain our promises to our vetance and their families. mr. speaker, i reserve the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from florida reserves. the gentleman from -- for what purpose does the gentleman rise? mr. michaud: i ask for time i may consume. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized. mr. michaud: thank you, mr. speaker. i rise today in support of our nation's veterans and in support of action that will fundamentally address the systematic failures that are clearly occurring across the department of veterans affairs. i reluctantly support this legislation because i believe we owe it to the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our nation's -- for our nation to do everything in our power to ensure the v.a. is
accountable for its performance. share with my good friend and colleague, chairman miller, fundamental goals in addressing shortcomings in v.a. leadership and i'm proud of our bipartisan working relationship. not only does working together allow us to get more done, but i believe it makes our efforts better. i am disappointed, however, that the house veterans' affairs committee was not given the opportunity to consider this bill. i believe that members of the mmittee, republicans and democrats, could have improved this bill before it was brought to the floor. i believe this bill would be stronger and more reflective of the substantive reforms necessary in the department if it had been allowed to go through the committee markup process. h.r. 4031 has been put forth as an accountability bill, but it falls short of providing
beneficial changes in the v.a.'s executive performance management system. the secretary of the department of veterans affairs already has the authority to fire any employee, including executives, who are not doing their job. this bill would simply turn approximately 400 senior executive civil service positions across the v.a. into ssentially positions which 165 are the veterans health administration. more importantly, h.r. 4031 does not adequately address the performance metrics of v.a. executives. it doesn't provide any framework for ensuring problems and failures that don't occur in the first place. i introduced h.r. 4399, which the american legion also supports. which establishes up front organizational goals and expected outcomes for veterans
that every single v.a. senior leadership must deliver. it would require these goals and their outcomes to be the driving factor in performance assessment for these executives. and the basis for any awards or bonuses. this bill before us today does not address the senior physician or dentist known as title 38 employees, who receive executive level pay and have organizational level responsibility for veterans care and services. this is important because one executive implicated in manipulating the wait times in phoenix was a title 38 employee. which this bill does not cover that we are voting on today. so the very individual responsible for the catastrophic failures that we have seen across the v.a. recently may not even be impacted by the current legislation that we are dealing
with. my bill, h.r. 4399, does address title 38 physicians and dentists which covers approximately 80,000 employees within the v.a., title 38 employees. mandating standardized rigorous performance management tools that holds employees accountable and justifies any performance pay. finally, my bill would prohibit one of the most egregious examples of the failure of the current system as it applies to title 38 employees. a doctor was provided partial performance pay even though he had failed to maintain a current license. that is correct. he received a partial performance pay even though he failed to maintain a current license because maintaining a valid license wasn't one of his
performance objectives. this bill that we are dealing with today does not address that issue. good policy, good legislation comes from conversation, collaboration, and compromise. i'm supporting moving this bill forward today because i believe we need to begin this discussion as how to best ensure v.a. employees are held accountable when they fail to perform. let me be clear, we can and we must do more to ensure that our veterans get the quality services that they deserve and have earned. i'm hopeful that we can have the necessary dialogue in conference to ensure that any bill that we send to the president is more comprehensive reform measures, well considered, and actually has the desire and needed impact of changing the v.a. and ensuring the best outcomes of our nation's veterans. with that, mr. speaker, i
reserve the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from maine reserves. the gentleman from florida is recognized. mr. miller: the best way to reform the v.a. is get rid of the deadwood. that's what this bill gives the secretary the opportunity to do. that is to fire the people not doing their job, especially, especially those that are at the senior level. with that i yield one minute to the gentleman from colorado, mr. lamborn. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from colorado is recognized for one minute. mr. lamborn: i thank the chairman. mr. speaker, i rise today on behalf of my constituents and veterans who are alarmed at recent reports of preventable deaths, manipulated records, and secret waiting lists within the v.a. health care system. these allegations span the country and recently arisen in colorado at the fort collins v.a. clinic. if these allegations are found to be true, the responsible individuals must be held accountable. it is unacceptable for individuals who have presided over negligence and mismanagement to go unscathed. astonishingly past instances of
similar failures have not only seen responsible individuals remain employed by the v.a., but they have even been rewarded for their leadership failures in the form of bonuses and positive performance reviews. this only promotes the continuation of poor management negligence and possible preventable deaths. this bill would help ensure that these trends do not continue by giving the secretary of the v.a. the authority to remove or transfer senior executives of the v.a. i ask support of this bill and i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from florida reserves. the gentleman from maine. mr. michaud: thank you, mr. speaker. at this time i'd like to yield two minutes to the gentleman from georgia, mr. scott. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from georgia is recognized for two minutes. thank you very much, mr. speaker. the issue here before us on this bill, first let me say
many' a proud co-sponsor of this bill to replace and be able to fire people, but the problem is, the first person we need to fire is the secretary of veterans' affairs, mr. shinseki himself. we respect him. we respect the sacrifice for his country and everything else, but the buck stops at the top. here are the facts, 5,600 veterans are committing suicide every year. that's almost 20 every day. under his watch, under his watch in my own hospital in atlanta, four of our soldiers committed suicide in the hospital, and the very inspector general of the v.a. laid the blame directly at the foot of the v.a. administration for the lack of management of the depth of these soldiers, and when chairman miller and i went down and visited them, we asked, is there one more? is there any more that has committed suicide? no. there's been no more. and they told a damn lie
because the very next day it was exposed there was another soldier that committed suicide, and they covered it up. this has been a pattern that's been going on ever since general shinseki has been the chairman there. i respect his sacrifice. i respect what he did. but it's under his watch that we are in this situation in the hospital. . out in the western part of this country. where "the washington post" has accurately reported that 40 of our soldiers lost their lives died because they couldn't get service. our veterans are the heart and soul of this country, they are precious an we must not turn their back on them. i listened to the president today and i was very disappointed with president obama today. there was no urgency. mr. president, we need urgency, we need you to roll up our sleeves and get into these hospitals. we need you to set up a pattern
if the v.a. hospitals can't handle it, let's -- can i get another minute? the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman's time -- the chair: the gentleman's time has expired. >> i yield the gentleman 30 seconds. the chair: the gentleman is yielded 30 second. mr. davis: god bless -- mr. scott: god bless you, there are reports out, the taxpayers have paid or will have to pay $1 billion for medical malpractice, a reputable media organization down in atlanta went all over this country, $1 billion of taxpayers paying because the v.a. cut off the wrong arm, cut off the wrong leg, the wrong testicle, the wrong kidney. let me tell you all something, folks, time, that's what i was so disturbed about, we don't have time for any more investigations or reports -- any more investigations.
reports are in jesus christ himself said there is no more greater sacrifice than to give your life for your friend. our soldiers have given their lives on the battlefield for them. we need to give our veterans -- the chair: the gentleman is no longer recognized. he gentleman from maine. ll members are he re-minded to -- are reminded to refrain from using profanity on the floor. >> i would be happy to yield to the gentleman is he can yield more time to mr. scott. with that, i will yield one minute to dr. benishek. the chair: the gentleman is recognized for one minute. mr. benishek: i thank the chairman. mr. speaker in the real world, if you fail to do your job, you get fired. not at the v.a.
today i rise in support of h.r. 4031, the department of veteran affairs management accountability act. i'm proud to be an original co-sponsor of this bill because it allows the secretary to fire senior v.a. executives when they fail to do their job. i'm sick and tired of hauling v.a. officials in front of the committee to hear tired excuses and explanations. president obama has allowed the v.a. leadership to operate without accountability. veterans are dying. the time for excuses has passed. the time for taking action to fix these problems is now. this legislation is just the beginning. severe mismanagement at the v.a. will not be tolerated by me or this congress. we will overturn every rock and use every tool at our disposal in the pursuit of the truth of what's happening at the v.a.
the chair: the gentleman's time has expire the -- the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman's time has expyred. the gentleman from florida reserves. the gentleman from maine. >> i yield three minutes to the gentlelady from florida, ms. brown. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlelady is recognize fleered minutes. ms. brown: as a senior member on the house veterans affairs committee, i've been on this committee for 21 years. i strongly support the secretary, shin sec key and his leader sthoich department of veterans afairs. it is very important as we go into memorial day that we let the veterans know that we appreciate their service and we also need to let them know that we are going to do all we can to make sure they have the quality health care that they deserve.
sites . operates 1,700 of care and conducts 85 million ppointments each year. which comes to 236 health care appointments each day. the latest american customer atisfaction indicates, a customer service survey ranked v.a. customer satisfaction at 95%. v.a. has the best in the nation and equal to better than any any private sector hospital. this peaked in march of 2013. the v.a. has reduced the benefits claims backlog by 50% on track to eliminate the backlog in 2015. v.a. also implemented an
automatic electric claim process system to better serve veterans into the future. and 2013 v.a. paid out $66 billion in compensation claims to 4.5 million eligible veterans. under the leadership of the secretary, we also expand access to earned benefits to veterans of all era. in addition, v.a. grants presumption of service connections for three agent orange related conditions and let me just say that for years the veterans in this category have been trying to get assistance from the v.a. and they were denied. this secretary stepped up to the plate and let all of those veterans come in, millions of additional veterans. since 2009, v.a. has reduced
the number of homeless veterans, we have been trying to do that since day one 22 years ago, but this secretary has reduced it by 24%. they have conducted over six million clinical visits and over 600,000 veterans who were homeless at risk of homelessness, including former homelessness. in 2013 alone, v.a. served more than 240 veterans who were homeless. the v.a. -- may i have an additional 30 seconds? mr. michaud: i yield 30 seconds. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlelady is granted 30 seconds. ms. brown: in close, the v.a. is like a big ship, one i've been working on for 22 years. slow to turn. leadership, the democratic leadership and republican leadership, we have funded the largest v.a. budget increase in the history of the
united states. we, like the first president said, we must make sure that the v.a. do what it can to serve those veterans and give them the service we demand. god bless america and continue to bless the veteran who was served america. thank you. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlelady's time has expired. the gentleman from florida. >> i would add another statistic to those my colleague from florida just said. there have been 23, at least 23 preventable deaths in the department of veterans' affairs. mr. miller: i yield one minute to my friend, the chairman of the subcommittee, the gentleman from colorado, mr. coffman. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized. mr. coffman: i rise in strong support of h.r. 4031 because i failures t systemic of the v.a. exist far beyond the issue of appointment wait times. my subcommittee on v.a. oversight and investigations
continues to uncover countless fail youfers leadership at the v.a. this lack of leadership is the driving force behind the unacceptable delays and cost overruns and major v.a. construction projects. the tremendous backlog of veterans disability claims and the horrendous patient care practices that have resulted in preventable patient deaths. the individuals with responsibility and authority in lead . are enabled to and as a result our veterans have suffered. it is time to usher in a new era of accountability at the v.a. and i urge my colleagues to support the department of veterans' affairs management accountability act of 2014. thank you and i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from florida reserves. the gentleman from maine. mr. michaud: at this time i would like to yield three minutes to the gentlewoman from
texas, ms. jackson lee. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlewoman is recognized for three minutes. ms. jackson lee: it's an honor to stand on this floor in the midst of military appreciation month and be from a state that has the highest numbers of young men and women returning from afghanistan and iraq. comparing to states like california and certainly some others. we are grateful for all in all state that was gone and put on the uniform unselfishly and stood in the line of danger for us. let me thank the veterans committee of this congress. i have never seen a more bipartisan and dedicated group of men and women. and if the committee was opened up to all of us, we'd all stand up and serve. today is is a -- today as a family in the united states congress we have a problem. we have a disease problem.
whether it is a heart attack or stroke or cancer. or whether or not it is the terrible injuries of war. post-traumatic stress disorder. or those who have lost limbs. who have suffered traumatic brain injury. we have men and women who have worked in our veterans -- and our veterans have now come in later years, suffer the illnesses of age. all of us will take our fists and bang on this podium to be able to say that they are first in our priority. excessive ters deaths, those who may have died in texas or elsewhere. if this is a measure to begin that healing, to give the secretary the ability to be table focus in on those beyond the surgeons that are in the operating room the nurses that i visited with along the hallways when i go to the
veterans hospital in my area, then we should go forward and i stand with this legislation working toward making the system work. and i want to make it work by curing the systemic and the problematic way that we have veterans wait on services. let's cut it out. cut the red tape out. embrace them this weekend. one of the most emotional days we serve with our veterans and tell them we will not rest until we answer the concerns of families, until we pray over those who have lost their lives, until we care this not by one person or another. they may have to go but let's fix the system that they will have no waiting time when they come with lung cancer or -- lung cancer, last stage work their life to be extended if they just get in the door. i want all of them to be able to get in the door and to use those resources that we have
expended, those large numbers that my colleague and friend from florida, both from florida, from maine, have spoken about, and we use those resources to break the barrier of confusion and red tape and when they walk through those doors, someone says, come in. we are ready to serve. i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlelady's time has expire. the gentleman from maine reserves, the gentleman from florida. >> i yield one minute to the gentlelady from the hoosier state, many walorski. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlelady is recognized. miss walorski: i want to thank chairman miller for his work to reform this mismanaged department. our soldiers and their families never hesitated to serve our country. recent reports are disgusting and disgrateful -- disgraceful. we know of dozens of wrongful deaths due to negligence including 13 in my state of indiana. those who oversee this
negligence are more likely to receive a bonus than punishment this bill would give the v.a. secretary authority to fire senior employees responsible for failures within this department. i urge my colleagues to vote yes on this bill and i'll continue to do my part on the oversight and fighting for the nation's 23 million veterans. i also call on the senate today to bring greater accountability and transparency to the v.a. by passing the numerous bipartisan bills that have left this house, including this one, that are stalled, that could be stalled in the senate. our veterans deserve nothing but this best. i yield back my time. thank you. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlelady yields back. the gentleman from florida reserves. the gentleman from maine. mr. michaud: may i inquire of the speaker how much time i have left. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from maine has 5 1/2 minute the gentleman from lorida has 10. mr. michaud: waiting for other speakers, i reserve. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman reserves. the gentleman from florida. mr. miller: it's my pleasure to
yield to someone who is new on the veterans committee, he's new to congress but has been an advocate for veterans since -- since his work as a staff member here, mr. jolly. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized. mr. jolly: perhaps more importantly today after hearing the president's press conference i rise out of concern over a pleat failure of our president to address this issue. the v.a. health care system is experiencing a historic crisis and yet today the president's solution seemed to be business as usual bureaucracy. the president has done nothing to ensure that we as a nation immediately address the systemic problems within the v.a. system or the threat to human life that's been created by incidence of bureaucratic incompetence. the president earlier today spoke rhetorically about unacceptable wait times for veterans but he did nothing to address the american people's wait time for this administration to solve this problem now. it's been 23 days and there's
no sense of urgency. what we heard today was more bureaucracy, more investigations, more studying the issue and ultimately a continuation of business as usual until the president and his secretary determine in due time when they will act. he spoke of holding personnel accountable but he never once spoke of terminating personnel. that is why i rise today to support this legislation. thank you, mr. speaker. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from florida reserves. the gentleman from maine. mr. michaud: i yield three minutes to the gentleman from maryland, mr. hoyer. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized for three minutes. mr. high pressure: mr. speaker, i rise -- mr. hoyer: mr. speaker, i rise in opposition to this. i urge my members to vote against it. i don't know if they will but i urge them to do so. all of us in this body need to be for accountability. none of us in this body,
however, ought to be returning a civil service system into a patronage system. none of us ought to be for turning a civil service system, one of the best in the world, if not the best, into a system hich allows for no reason that needs to be articulated to turn senior executives into at-will employees. i'm disappointed that this bill has been brought to the floor with little notice and no markup in committee. we talk about considered judgment. we talk about thoughtfulness. we talk about reading the bills. and then we bring them to the floor without hearings. we must ensure that those who serve our veterans in the v.a. systems do so with accountability and oversight, all of us, are outraged at the
allegations that have been made. not one of us should step back and say we should not respond vigorously to the offenses that have allegedly taken place. because if the allegations are true, heads ought to roll. period. but that's not what this legislation is about. this legislation is about a knee-jerk reaction to a bad situation painted with a very broad, broad brush. and undermining a system that can work, has worked, and has the mechanism to work. i cannot support this bill as written. i believe it opens the door to a slippery slope of undoing of things that have been in place for decades. this is about due process.
due process is put under stress at critical times. pursuing due process at times when there is no stress is not difficult. the test of a society is whether at times of stress it can follow due process. and the law. this bill does not provide for hat. protection vs. been put in place for decades to assure politically appointed managers cannot fire nonpolitical senior executives in federal service without proper cause. neither party ought to be for that. the civil service reforms adopted decades ago were there for a purpose. as a result, mr. speaker, i rise in opposition and urge my colleagues to vote against this
premature and -- the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman's time has expired. mr. hoyer: piece of legislation. i yield back the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from maine reserves. the gentleman from florida is recognized. mr. miller: we have just been told this is knee-jerk reaction to a crisis. it's the only action to a risis. for three weeks said nothing until today. he still has not said anything. the secretary has not been involved. we have to take care of the veterans that we have fighting for our freedom every single day. nothing in this bill, nothing in this bill takes away the recruitment process through s.e.s., and if the secretary does fire somebody or demoats somebody because of this law, they have to provide notice to congress within 30 days. if you don't do your job, you get fired. mr. kelly, i recognize him for one minute. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized for one minute. mr. kelly: i thank the
chairman, mr. speaker. let me say when i first got here people say kelly, you expect government to work as a business. no, no. that's not true. because there is no way any business can work as the government works. this bill is a commonsense way of taking care of people who don't perform at a level that's expected. the citizens should expect nothing less an to be told you can't touch these folks even if they perform badly, instead of doing that you give them a bonus. that doesn't make sense. accountability is absolutely needed at this time. we give people authority. we give people responsibility. when they don't do their job, they need to be held accountable for it. i represent not only the state of pennsylvania but only one million pennsylvanians who are veterans. if we can't fix this now with a commonsense approach that my goodness, what are we doing on the floor of this great house? it just makes sense. i thank the chairman for bringing forward and it's long overdue. it needs to be done now. i thank you. i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back. he gentleman from maine.
the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from florida. mr. miller: i recognize the gentleman mr. lamalfa for one minute. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from california is recognized for one minute. mr. lamalfa: thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, mr. speaker. i join my colleagues today in support of h.r. 4031 which brings sorely needed accountability to the department of veterans affairs. the president said today that he will hold those responsible at v.a. accountable. we heard that before. as a president the candidate nnounced delays, and called it the broken bureaucracy of the v.a. we can hope to hear more than platitudes here in the near future, but i'm skeptical. the president has done very little to hold this v.a. staff accountable and now he's in the deadly consequences of the system in arizona. like other administration staff who violated the law, those
responsibilities are on paid leave. unfortunately, the v.a.'s problems are not unique to arizona. we learned of similar efforts to conceal huge problems at the open oakland v.a. office. including cooked books, hidden files, and refusal to meet veterans' needs. v.a. employees actually coming forward to help us expose these problems. some bureaucrats seem more interested in receiving bonuses than serving our veterans. it's time for that to end. mr. speaker, we need to get this now. pass h.r. 4031. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from florida reserves. the gentleman from maine continues to reserve. the gentleman from florida. mr. miller: at this time i think i have one more speaker. there's another on the list but he's not here. i'd like to yield one minute to the gentleman from the 12th district of pennsylvania, mr. rothfus, who has been very involved in issues as it relates to pittsburgh. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from pennsylvania is recognized for one minute. mr. rothfus: mr. speaker, having stepped forward to defend our country with their
very lives, our veterans deserve a health care system and claims process that is both of high quality and is accountable. unfortunately, the v.a. has failed veterans in pittsburgh, phoenix, and across the nation. a world war 2 veteran from western pennsylvania survived guam, saipan, okinawa, but fell victim to legionaire's disease at the pittsburgh v.a. it's been 1 1/2 years since he died and the family is still waiting for answers and accountability. so are the families of john, clark, lloyd, and frank. unfortunately the world now knows that these are not isolated incidents. significant changes and accountability must be made at the v.a. to solve these problems. i urge all my colleagues to support the v.a. management accountability act. this bill is an important step in that direction. thank you to chairman miller for conducting the oversight necessary to bring these issues into light. i thank the speaker. i yield back.
the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back. the gentleman from florida reserves. the gentleman from maine. is the gentleman from florida ready to close? mr. miller: we have one more speaker but he's not here. we are prepared to close. mr. michaud: how much time do i have remaining? the speaker pro tempore: 2 1/2 minutes. the gentleman from florida has 5 1/4. mr. michaud: thank you very much, mr. speaker. i want to thank the chairman as well. t i also want to reiterate the secretary currently does have the authority to fire any senior executive service members if they are not performing their job. this bill does not address the problem systemically within the v.a. we are dealing with the veterans health administration. this bill only covers 165 s.e.s.'s which work in the veterans health administration.
there's 400 throughout the v.a. the legislation which i would voting on today deals with not only the s.e.s.'s, but also the title 38 employees. the reason why it's important to deal with it, title 38 employees, it's important to note, that one of the executives implicated in manipulating the wait times in phoenix is a title 38 employee. this bill does not address that employee. the bill also does not address some of the most egregious examples of failure in the system. as i mentioned earlier a doctor was provided partial performance pay even though he ad let his license expire. because that was not rt part of the performance objective. i will be supporting this legislation so we can move it through the process, so we can
go through conference to actually address some of these issues. and i hope that we will be able to address these issues. they are very serious issues. they are issues important to our veterans. to our committee we deal with this. and i hope, mr. chairman, we will work together like we have in the past. i'm disappointed the fact that this bill is before us because we were not able to improve upon the bill. and i also would hope that the president looks very seriously at the performance evaluation within the department of veterans affairs. and that he immediately issues an executive order similar to the legislation that i have submitted that will address a lot of systemic problems within the department of veterans affairs. this is unacceptable and we must move forward to deal with this issue.
with that, mr. speaker, i encourage my colleagues to support the legislation and i yield back the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back the balance of his time. the gentleman from florida. mr. miller: mr. speaker, i have a request of the gentleman from maine. our speaker has now showed up. may i yield him one minute? the speaker pro tempore: without objection. mr. miller: i thank the gentleman. the gentleman from gainesville, has a facility that is in fact at this point has sever people put on administrative leave. i'd like to yield him one minute. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from florida is recognized for one minute. >> i thank my colleague, mr. miller. i rise today in support of h.r. 4031, the department of veterans' affairs management accountability act of 2040. mr. yoho: for far too long, problem patient neglect has persisted. these problems will continue to service until the employees there can be held accountable
for their poor performance. in recent weeks, the incompetence has been made clear. serious allegations have risen that wait times and secret waiting lists at the phoenix v.a. medical centers led to the death of 40 of our nation's veterans. this is unacceptable. there are stories of secret waiting lists at v.a.'s all over the news. as these reports are investigated, it is necessary that we give the secretary of the v.a. the power to not only reprimand but remove the neglect employees if we do not the problem will persist. for these reasons and more, i co-sponsored chairman miller's bill which will authorize the secretary of veterans affairs to remove or demote any senior executive employees whose performance has been found lacking. mr. speaker, caring for our veterans is of paramount importance. i urge my colleagues to stand up for our veterans and vote to pass the department of veterans affairs. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from florida. mr. miller: first i want to say hank you very much
mr. miller: first i want to thank the gentleman from maine who has been very bipartisan in the way we approach thsmed our committee has worked in a bipartisan way to get to the bottom of the issue. it has been said on the floor there were no hearings on this bill, it has been heard in subcommittee. it's also been said that the secretary has the tools that he needs in order to hold people accountable. here's where we are. back in january, i went to augusta, georgia, and columbia, south carolina, at the request of congressman joe wilson and congressman john barro. we know, and v.a. has said, that there were deaths that occurred, there were some 5,000 veterans on waiting lists for colonoscopies. i talked about one of those
veterans who testified before our committee today. shortly after that, i wrote to the secretary and asked him, please provide me the names of the people, what their positions were, and what type of accountability, what disciplinary actions have you taken? we're now in the closing weeks of the month of may and i have heard absolutely nothing out of the department of veterans' affairs. he may have the tools, but he won't use the tools that he has at his disposal to get rid of or to discipline the very people who are at the crux of the problem that we're talking about all across this nation today. let me tell you something else. the very director of the phoenix hospital that is now on administrative leave, according to the department of veterans' affairs today, got a bonus, an $8,500 bonus, in april of this year even though they knew that
there was an open office of inspector general investigation ongoing at the time. got a bonus. while there was an ongoing investigation. in pittsburgh, in pittsburgh, pennsylvania, where the director of the health care system up there knew that there the water lla inside system that led to the death of at least six veterans, they knew it for a year that person got a $63,000 presidential bonus. it is easier to get rewarded at v.a. than it is to be disciplined. and that is why i urge my colleagues to vote in favor what i am trying to say is that fraud kills. nonpartisan.
we have to do something about it. we do not have unlimited budgets. money is wasted on a building that will never be used. that could have helped people in the united states. he keep seeing this again and again. i'm very proud to work for this administration. i think it is important to realize that i was appointed by the president. it is important that the people see that the government does care. there are a lot of people who care about wasting money. >> john sopko on his role as inspector general. sunday night at 8:00 on c-span q&a.