Oversight bills require attentiveness
For years, veterans of military service and their families have worried about the Department of Veterans Affairs. News of lengthy wait-lists, enormous cost overruns on new facilities and similar outrages was, to say the least, worrisome.
It got worse in 2018, when what happened at a VA hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, came to light. At least eight veterans were murdered there.
Earlier this year, a former nursing assistant at the hospital, Rita Mays, pleaded guilty to killing the men. For more than a year, she had been injecting her victims with lethal doses of insulin.
How Mays got away with her killing spree may remain a mystery. Taking steps to safeguard veterans against homicidal maniacs such as her in the future is vital.
Members of Congress — led, it should be noted, by West Virginia’s delegation — reacted in shock and anger. In December 2019, the Improving Safety and Security for Veterans Act was approved by the Senate. It was passed several days ago by the House of Representatives and sent to President Donald Trump for his signature.
Under provisions of the ISSVA bill, the Veterans Administration is required to submit regular reports on the safety of veterans treated at its facilities, as well as the quality of care provided to them. The reports will go to Congress.
“Congress must do everything it can to ensure this never happens again,” U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-WV, said of Mays’ murders. “This bill is just the first step toward that goal,” he added.
Members of Congress cannot be expected to understand the intricacies of all the issues with which they deal. That is why they have staff members who can become specialists and advise the lawmakers.
Each chamber of Congress should ensure that it has at least one qualified staff member with the expertise and time to examine the VA reports in the future — and, if necessary, wave the red flag if something of concern is noticed. Oversight bills are important, but they are valueless unless backed up by attentiveness.