WASHINGTON (KDKA) — The head of the Department of Veterans Affairs is talking about the new law that will give Veterans access to private healthcare. KDKA Legal Editor Julie Grant met with him, when she was in Washington D.C. to interview members of President Trump’s Cabinet.READ MORE: Mars Area High School Graduate Honored With Bob Johnson Memorial Scholarship
“It seemed like if they’re waiting in line for 9 days and they can’t see a doctor why aren’t they going outside to see a doctor and take care of themselves and we pay the bill,” President Trump said minutes before he signed the VA Mission Act into law.
Giving our nation’s heroes more healthcare choices and benefit opportunities is the goal.
“Over the last 500 days, we’ve done everything that we’ve been able to do internally to create the right environment for veterans, to be able to choose the VA as a great option, to be able to choose a local provider if that’s a better option for them,” said Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke.
A Veteran himself, Acting Secretary O’Rourke admits since the healthcare scandals surfaced in 2012, the department has been under the microscope. Advances were made last year when President Trump signed into law the Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.READ MORE: State Police Investigating After Two People Assaulted, Stabbed In Shenango Township
Grant asked Acting Secretary O’Rourke whether Veterans are getting the standard of care in VA hospitals that they deserve.
“Let’s talk about the facts. We have 168 hospitals across the U.S., over 3,000 community-based health clinics. We have over 300,000 employees that come to work every day with one goal in mind: to take care of Veterans,” O’Rourke said.
After asking again, Acting Secretary O’Rourke said, “I believe that they can. This President has made a promise to veterans. We know that there has been things that we can improve on. We’ve worked hard on that. I was just in Manchester, New Hampshire, yesterday to watch a leadership team that’s come together that’s meeting the physical needs and emotional needs of veterans every day.”
Grant also asked Acting Secretary O’Rourke about a KDKA investigation that revealed inadequate coverage for Veterans who got sick from exposure to burn pits.
“In the big picture, we have lots of these issues that come up and we want to recognize with veterans. We research and we are looking into all of those. We have multiple different challenges that we’ve faced through different conflicts that we’ve been in, especially our newer veterans that are coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan,” O’Rourke said.MORE NEWS: Pittsburgh Lifeguard Helps Woman Finish Great Race
Another major focus for the VA going forward is caring for the families of Veterans. Acting Secretary O’Rourke told Grant much of the early work on the Accountability Act was done with a team of people in Pittsburgh. He also said to deliver a message to our heroes here in western Pennsylvania — to please never hesitate to reach out.