Ranking Member Takano and VA Under Secretary for Health Elnahal Visit VA Loma Linda
RIVERSIDE, CA— Yesterday, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Mark Takano (CA-39) and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Shereef Elnahal, visited the VA Loma Linda Health Care System. Together, they met with the local VA leadership team and union leaders, held a veteran roundtable, and conducted two VA employee town halls. They also visited the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans' Hospital, the VA Ambulatory Care Center, and the VA Loma Linda Health Care System’s recently established Women’s Health Center. In addition, they met with VA Loma Linda clinical staff who are leading groundbreaking research on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for veterans with combat-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
During their visit, Ranking Member Takano and Under Secretary Elnahal discussed PACT Act implementation in this community, heard about steps the VA Loma Linda Health Care System is taking to improve veterans’ access to healthcare, and talked directly with employees about their experiences working at VA Loma Linda.
The Ranking Member released the following statement after the visit.
“During yesterday’s visit to VA Loma Linda, I had an opportunity to see for myself countless examples of VA Loma Linda employees—at every level of the organization— working tirelessly every day to deliver on the mission of providing world-class healthcare to the brave men and women who have served our country. The quality of care at VA Loma Linda was recently affirmed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ annual hospital quality “star ratings,” which for the first time this year rated VA hospitals along with non-VA hospitals. VA Loma Linda was rated 4 out of 5 stars, making its overall quality rating equal to or better than every other non-VA hospital in the area. The VA Loma Linda Health Care System is also playing a crucial role in delivering benefits and care to veterans under the PACT Act.
“Yesterday’s visit also provided a much fuller picture of certain personnel issues at VA Loma Linda that have received media attention after concerns were raised earlier this year by House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mike Bost and Rep. Jay Obernolte (CA-23). Dr. Elnahal and I spent a great deal of time during our visit discussing how VA is addressing these issues, and we share local VA leadership’s commitment to ensuring that all employees and veterans are treated with dignity and respect. I am glad that Dr. Elnahal, the top leader of the Veterans Health Administration, could be there with me to hear first-hand the progress being made, and I will be sure to share with my colleagues what we learned. Despite repeated negative portrayals of staffing issues at Loma Linda, I have confidence that leadership is moving forward in an appropriate way and I will continue to oversee their efforts.”
Background: The VA Loma Linda VA Health Care System has served the veteran community of California’s Inland Empire for over 44 years, and today provides services to more than 78,000 veterans. Last August, Ranking Member Takano championed the Honoring our PACT Act, the largest expansion of benefits for veterans in decades. Under this law, VA can now presume that if veterans were serving in certain areas at certain times, and are experiencing health issues like cancer, that the illness is service connected. Since being signed into law on August 10, 2022, more than four million veterans have undergone a toxic exposure screening. Visit VA.gov/PACT to find out more and submit an intent to file. Veterans and their survivors who submit an intent to file by August 9th may be eligible for backdated benefits.
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