In arguing for “real accountability” at the U.S. Veterans Administration, House Speaker John Boehner Thursday used the Dayton VA Medical Center as an example of the “worst of government.”
Pointing to the hundreds of patients at the center who were exposed to hepatitis B and C in 2011, Boehner said, “While this was under investigation, the director of the (Dayton) hospital collected a five-figure bonus,’’ referring to former director Guy Richardson. “And then he was promoted.’’
“You know, I thought I had seen the worst of government but this goes beyond the pale,” Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., said. “If you’re presiding over a bureaucracy that is failing our veterans, you shouldn’t be receiving bonuses, you should be gone.”
Boehner also said an Air Force veteran in Middletown has waited 20 months for disability benefits while the VA verifies that he’s married. “And guess what,” the Speaker said. “He’s been married for 49 years.”
To usher in more accountability to the VA, Boehner said the House will pass a bill that gives the secretary greater powers to dismiss or demote officials.
At a news conference on Capitol Hill, Boehner was joined by a group of veterans and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Lawmakers have complained that the VA has been slow to respond to disability claims by tens of thousands of veterans.
Earlier this week, the VA said it had slashed the number of pending disability claims from 611,000 in the spring of last year to 344,000 this year.
In a statement Tuesday, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said that “no veteran should have to wait to receive earned benefits. Through a combination of transformation initiatives and the hard work of our employees, we are making significant progress toward our goal of eliminating the claims backlog in 2015.”
Richardson, the former director Boehner cited in the press conference, was reassigned to a Cincinnati regional headquarters job in March 2011, after it was alleged that a dentist in the Dayton VA dental clinic failed to change gloves and sterilize dental equipment between patients. An internal investigation exonerated Richardson of any blame, and he was later named to a regional deputy network director job in Maryland that included an increase in pay.
Video: Watch Speaker Boehner’s comments about the Dayton VA at MyDaytonDailyNews.com