ASHEVILLE, NC (WBTV) - Senator Tim Kaine, the Democratic nominee for vice president, said more needs to be done to reform the US Department of Veterans Affairs in an exclusive interview with On Your Side Investigates following a campaign rally in Asheville last week.
We've been exposing problems with the VA since February.
So far, our investigation has uncovered long wait times at both local VA medical facilities and with the VA Choice program; veterans with service-connected disabilities who are denied disability benefits; and myriad problems with the VA Choice program, including long wait times to make appointments, problems getting authorization for treatment and the program's failure to pay medical bills to treating physicians.
In his interview, Kaine said the agency has made strides during the Obama Administration but there is still room for improvement.
"We've tried to improve it but more improvements are necessary," Kaine said. "We've got to improve two things: waiting times for veterans to get appointments and waiting times for individuals who are applying for veterans' disability benefits." Kaine's running mate, Hillary Clinton, has outlined a
multi-point plan aimed at reforming the VA. Included in the plan are reforming veterans' health care and modernizing the agency, among others.
"A lot of it is about converting a VA that is still wedded to paper records," Kaine explained, adding that the VA is currently in the process of converting paper records to digital files.
An On Your Side investigation in March found private medical providers participating in the VA Choice program are having to delay patients' treatment because they cannot get authorization to perform necessary procedures. The problem, providers have said, stems from the fact that treatments are still requested and authorized by faxing forms back and forth.
The need to further reform the VA is a rare point of agreement between the Clinton and Trump campaigns.
The Republican presidential candidate has his own multi-point plan to reform the VA. Trump and his running mate, Governor Mike Pence, outlined that plan to the VFW National Convention in Charlotte.
"The VA scandals that have occurred are widespread and inexcusable," Trump said.
Like Clinton, Trump's plan includes reforms to find and retain the best employees possible and improving the quality of care. Both candidates also want to keep the VA a public system, amid efforts by some in Congress to further privatize the VA.
"The Veterans Health System will remain a public system because it is a public trust," Trump told the VFW.