Floor and Committee Statements

   Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, just for the record, a staff sergeant just addressed a lieutenant colonel. She is beautiful, and she is also very smart. I am glad to be in the military with her. I am glad to have served our country and proud of the service she has given our country and the service she gives to the U.S. Senate and the great state of Iowa.

   As chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have had a great experience the last few years pretty much lined up with what Senator Ernst said.

   When we got here four years ago in the Senate and took this committee, the VA was a mess. Veterans services were not being met. There was story after story after story of veterans not getting appointments kept, the wrong tooth being pulled, the wrong leg being set, the wrong disease being treated. Lots of hospitals had sanitation problems. There were just a whole lot of things, and I said, “What have I gotten myself into?” because I came here to go on the committee and try to help our veterans get better healthcare. Instead, I thought I was presiding over the end of healthcare.

   So we all set our minds--Senator Ernst and I, Senator Perdue in the chair now, and Mr. Scott from the great state of Florida--all of us rallied and said: We are going to make this right. We are going to go on a mission. Our mission is to make the VA work and make it work for our veterans. We are not going to take no for an answer.

   On the 6th day of June, a week and a half ago, we all celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day. But it was the first anniversary of a renewed VA--a VA on a mission. I am proud to tell you now that on the first anniversary of the VA MISSION Act, which passed last year, we have fewer complaints, more compliments, better reserve, and better outcomes. We are working toward seeing to it that we have the best possible healthcare we can have for our veterans.

   I am glad to join Senator Ernst and the other senators who will speak about the promises of the VA system now being met for those who have sacrificed and risked their lives for us, being sure they are given the healthcare they want. We are doing it by applying the right types of principles and the right type of can-do attitude.

   Care in the community, which is a major portion of the MISSION Act, was the most important part. Care in the community is basically all of the services we put together to make healthcare accessible to our veterans. We were having a problem with veterans getting appointments within 30 days of making the appointment. We were having trouble with veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or VA CBOC to get appointments in time in the system. We have had problems with certain rare diseases and difficult problems only from the types of warfare we are in today with IEDs and things like that to get the right doctors with the right veterans at the right time.

   Then, we had the problem of America being a country spread out all over the place, 48 contiguous states from Montana to Florida. A lot of doctors have to be utilized to get care to the veteran. It is the same thing with Hawaii, the same thing with Alaska.

   But we put the whole thing together in a care in the community package, which started during last year and now is in full swing, and I am proud to tell you--and I am sure I am going to regret saying this--but we didn’t have a complaint in the first week after the inception last year about the system failing to work.

   The access standards have been looked at and improved. We took the mistakes we made a year ago and put the answers in place, solutions in place. We did everything we could to make our mission a winner for the veterans, and we did.

   I am here today to join my other colleagues who are going to speak about the MISSION Act and about our veterans. We are very proud that we took the challenge to see to it that something we had promised them years ago--our vets--works and worked better for them, and we will continue to keep that pledge in the years to come.

   We owe no greater obligation than we do to those who served our country in the military. Our obligation is to see to it that what we promised them when they joined is what they get when they are in the veteran status. As long as I have the ability to serve in the U.S. Senate and as chairman of that committee, I will remain committed and remain on a mission to see to it that we make that a reality for all of our veterans.