Arizona Senators, Veteran Organizations React To President Obama's Visit To Phoenix VA

By Alexandra Olgin, Carrie Jung
Published: Friday, March 13, 2015 - 4:50pm
Updated: Friday, March 13, 2015 - 5:03pm
(Carrie Jung - KJZZ News)
Some protesters gathered on 7th street and Indian School road today during President Obama's visit to the Phoenix VA.
(Carrie Jung - KJZZ News)
President Obama visited the Phoenix VA on Friday.

President Barack Obama met with administrators Friday at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs medical center. It was his first visit to the facility.

President Obama and VA Secretary Robert McDonald joined VA employees, veterans organizations and members of congress for a roundtable discussion to talk about the progress so far and where more is needed at the medical center.

The president also used the time in Phoenix to announce the creation of an advisory committee aimed at improving veteran outcomes at VA hospitals.

Angel Juarez with the American Legion was also at the meeting.

"If this advisory committee is allowed to come together regularly enough and their advice is acted on I think good things are going to come from it," Juarez said.

Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake were in attendance, but showed less enthusiasm. They said better implementation of the Choice Act would make more of a difference.

The Arizona senators joined President Obama at the Phoenix VA to address progress with the new VA reform law. The senators said there is still a long way to go.

Veterans living more than 40 miles from any VA facility are able to get private healthcare under the choice part of the veteran’s reform law.

McCain and Flake claim the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act passed last year is not being implemented as intended. In the four months it has been available, only 5 percent of vets have been able to use it.

Senator Flake said when he asked the VA about the problems with implementing the Choice Act, the response was that it was too expensive.  

“If they allowed Choice, too few people would chose the clinics or the VA proper," Flake said. "If that’s the case, we have bigger problems and we need a broader assessment of the model we have for veterans' care.”

Flake said he won’t sit back and trust the VA to fix the problems. He and McCain said they will closely monitor the way the VA re-works the Choice Act. 

Updated 3/13/2015 at 5:02 p.m.

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