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Viewpoint: Working for Wisconsin veterans

During my recent veterans town hall meetings across Wisconsin, I heard directly from Wisconsin veterans on the need to improve the care and services our veterans are getting from the Department of Veterans Affairs. While many of our veterans like our local VA facilities, the process to get the services they need can be long and frustrating.

Unfortunately with the ongoing hiring freezes, the administration is not helping to make the situation better. During a recent House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, a senior VA official stated under oath that the hiring freeze has impacted the VA's ability to purchase critical medical equipment and provide quality care.

Adding to the problem, as many know, our VA medical facilities still struggle to recruit and retain qualified health professionals, especially in rural areas like many parts of Wisconsin. In recent years some VA clinics, including ones in Wisconsin Rapids and Wausau, have been forced to turn away veterans due to a shortage of physicians. The Tomah VA Medical Center has also been forced to cut back services due to problems recruiting physicians. That is unacceptable.

I have been working hard to fix the ongoing staffing shortages that are keeping our veterans from receiving the care and services they have earned. I introduced the bipartisan Veterans Access to Care Act, which would help VA facilities recruit quality health professionals by designating VA medical facilities as Health Professional Shortage Areas.

Earlier this year I sponsored a bill to reverse President Donald Trump's hiring freeze at the VA and last week I called on the House Veterans Affairs Committee to immediately look into the impact that the administration's hiring freeze is having on Wisconsin veterans' ability to receive the services they need.

Providing quality care and services for our veterans is not a partisan issue. Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country, and the last thing that should be done is to make them have to wait longer to receive the care and services they have earned and deserve. I will continue to work to give Wisconsin veterans timely access to the services and care they earned and deserve.

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