Sens. Young, Cruz file bill to address VA problems after I-Team 8 investigation

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Two U.S. senators have filed a bill to address information technology problems within the VA that were exposed by an I-Team 8 investigation into missing medical equipment at the VA.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1452 , calls for creating the position of Chief Information Officer within the Veterans Health Administration. Senators Todd Young (R-Indiana) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) filed the legislation this week.

Young and Cruz said through a joint statement that the addition of the position would “provide necessary oversight regarding the procurement, acquisition and management of the VHA’s IT systems.” Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Young are original cosponsors of the bill.

A recent I-Team 8 investigation found that the Indianapolis VA Roudebush Medical Center lost track of $1 million worth of medical equipment in the past three years, according to inventory records reviewed by I-Team 8. The items unaccounted for included expensive items, like $28,000 surgical drill or $22,000 worth of patient lifts that simply vanished or lacked the paper trail to prove whether they had been lost, stolen or otherwise disposed of.

What’s more – I-Team 8 discovered that the Indianapolis VA continued to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of medical equipment in recent years – even after the VA inked a $543 million contract to provide real-time location systems — essentially tracking devices — on the medical devices.

Young, whose office said he was unavailable for an interview Thursday, released a statement regarding the bill to I-Team 8:

“The current system is not getting the job done, and in some cases preventing our veterans from receiving the care they were promised and deserve,” Sen. Young said in a statement. “The missing medical equipment scandal at the Roudebush VA center in Indianapolis and the ongoing problems with implementation of the VA’s $543 million real-time locating systems demonstrate the desperate need for reform of information technology systems and procedures at the VA. By creating the position of Chief Information Officer, this bill promises to improve accountability at the VA and supports Secretary Shulkin’s reform efforts. I am glad to work with Sen. Cruz on this important effort.”

That same statement included the following remark by Sen. Cruz:

“Modernizing the VA’s IT infrastructure is a critical step to improving the agency’s delivery of health care and remedying the long wait times that have compromised the health and safety of veterans who have honorably served our nation,” Sen. Cruz said. “The time for VA reform cannot wait any longer. We must deliver on the promise our nation has made to the men and women who have so bravely defended our nation, and provide the care that they deserve. I am proud to sponsor this common-sense legislation which I believe will be instrumental in solving VA mismanagement and drastically improving its ability to address the health needs of our nation’s heroes.”

The bill has been read twice and assigned to a committee. The full language of the bill has not yet been made public.

This story corrects that Sen. Ted Cruz is a Republican from Texas.

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