Legislation includes Ernst language underscoring importance of telemedicine options available to veterans
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) recently cosponsored the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2015, which was introduced by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and passed unanimously out of committee yesterday during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee business meeting. This legislation would put into place needed reforms and improvements to shield whistleblowers, hold retaliators responsible, and ensure that medical records of veterans who serve as U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees are protected.
The Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2015 follows a September Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing entitled, “Improving VA Accountability: Examining First-Hand Accounts of Department of Veterans Affairs Whistleblowers”, during which Dr. Kirkpatrick’s brother testified. He explained that Dr. Kirkpatrick was fired by the VA after raising questions about the medication amounts given to veterans. Dr. Kirkpatrick tragically committed suicide shortly thereafter.
During the September hearing, Ernst emphasized: “today’s hearing is just re-emphasizing to me that we have a corrupt and broken VA system. And when I hear that supervisors, other workers, are more concerned about their own jobs than they are about the veterans – we have an issue.”
In addition, during yesterday’s Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee business meeting, Senator Ernst highlighted language she added to the legislation, to inform veterans who serve as VA employees of the telemedicine options available to them.
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Senator Ernst previously introduced the bipartisan Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Act (VETS Act) to improve health care access for disabled or rural veterans by expanding telemedicine services offered by the VA across state lines. The legislation awaits further consideration by the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
“Senator, thank you. I do want to thank you for – for this piece of legislation and those that are sponsoring the piece of legislation as well. Particularly you, Mr. Chairman for also allowing me to add language highlighting the importance of the telemedicine options that we have available for our veterans. And this is an issue that I have been working on with Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Senator Ayotte, and Senator Tester, those on this committee, and a number of our other colleagues. It is an important step for us and I appreciate your willingness to work with me on telemedicine. So thank you Mr. Chairman, very much.”
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