Chair DeLauro Statement at Department of Veterans Affairs COVID-19 Response Hearing
House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on Department of Veterans Affairs COVID-19 Response:
Thank you. I want to recognize Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ranking Member John Carter and Mr. Rutheford for being here this morning. Thank you for arranging today’s hearing. Dr. Stone, Dr. Matthews, we are appreciative of your testimony today to discuss the VA’s response to COVID-19.
Throughout this pandemic Americans from every walk of life have been forced to contend with unanticipated and sometimes drastic changes to their lives and livelihoods. Not least among them are our nation’s veterans.
Though adapting to this pandemic has been difficult for all of us, it has been especially difficult for those veterans who rely on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for their health care needs.
For the past year, the VA has faced a number of unprecedented challenges from helping to provide their staff and the veterans they care for with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to administering the COVID-19 vaccine.
Unfortunately, the previous Administration’s mismanagement of supply chains and, in my view, general disregard for science led to serious missteps early on. Thankfully, the VA has amended some of its policies to better ensure that both VA employees are getting the equipment they require and our veterans are getting the care they need.
In my own state of Connecticut, the VA response has generally been very strong. The VA Connecticut Healthcare System serves the approximately 190,000 veterans in our state, and ranks among the best VA facilities in the nation for providing COVID-19 vaccines at VA facilities. I recently met with veterans at the West Haven VA vaccination clinic in my district. As a matter of fact, just about our entire Connecticut delegation went to the VA clinic. It was extraordinary. They were able to get veterans out within 20 minutes. They had a line for first doses, a line for second doses. And they told us that they can vaccinate up to one thousand veterans a day if they had the supply. They told me that they are grateful for our local VA’s organized and smooth response.
But I am also keenly aware that many VA patients across the country have not been so fortunate. It is vital that we continue to provide robust oversight of the VA health care system and make sure that all of our nation’s veterans are getting safe, high-quality care.
Our servicemembers have sacrificed so much for all of us, and it is our duty to ensure they are properly cared for. As appropriators, we need to provide the resources and equipment that veterans and VA staff need. And we must continue to push for greater transparency and oversight so that the VA is living up to our nation’s commitments to our veterans.