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DeFazio Calls on Secretary Shulkin to Restructure VA

Mar 20, 2018
Press Release

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) last week sent Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin a letter urging him to make significant changes to the structure and focus of the agency.

The letter pressed Shulkin to restructure or abolish Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs), the VA’s regional authorities which oversee health centers across the country.

“Unfortunately VISN 20 and VISNs around the country seem to be satisfied with the status quo, despite repeated calls by veterans and VA employees to raise the standard of care and provide employees with safer and healthier work environments,” wrote Rep. DeFazio. “…If VISNs cannot function at a high level that will actually perform meaningful oversight roles, I recommend the VA abolish the VISN structure and establish a stronger oversight authority. Our veterans deserve better.”

Last fall, DeFazio directly appealed to Secretary Shulkin to address serious mismanagement issues within the VA Roseburg Health System (VARHS), after repeated requests for investigation into the issues were ignored by the regional VISN office, VISN 20 Northwest Network. When asked if VISN 20 would change any of their oversight operations to be more thorough in their review of VARHS moving forward, the Network Director said no.

VISN 20’s network includes VARHS and the Walla Walla VA, which are ranked among the bottom 15 of the VA’s lowest performing facilities. VISN 20 also has oversight over the VA facility in White City, Oregon, which is rated as a one-star facility.

“While I am pleased that the VA has finally taken steps to address serious issues at VARHS, it and other low-performing facilities will only achieve long-term, sustainable change with proper oversight,” said Rep. DeFazio. “VISN 20 and other VISNs across the country aren’t delivering, and it is beyond time for change.” 

While Secretary Shulkin has called for the formation of a special team to develop a nationwide reorganization plan for VISNs, there remains far more to be done in order to ensure Oregon’s veterans receive the highest standard of care. DeFazio has joined Reps. Ann Kuster (NH-02) and Julia Brownley (CA-26) in requesting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the effectiveness of the VISN system.

To see a PDF version of Rep. DeFazio’s letter to Secretary Shulkin, click here.