Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the August issue of Townhall Magazine.
Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) is a proud military mom and wife, as well as a former nurse. Is it any wonder, then, that she’s been boldly critical of the ongoing scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs and proactive in finding solutions to the agency’s dangerous disorganization?
Black knows a thing or two about quality health care. She also knows when that care is tragically missing. She’s seen plenty of screw ups in her 40 years in the medical field:
“I witnessed many, many drugs not sent—that was lack of quality care. That’s what really got me interested in politics to begin with when I ran for office, to have an input where I thought I had expertise,” Black tells Townhall.
Her medical knowledge and experience make her especially disgusted over the incompetency at the VA, which has sidelined thousands of veterans waiting for care all across the country. Not only has the administration been plagued with scheduling conflicts and out-of-date software, but delays in diagnosis and treatment have even led to dozens of patient deaths.
President Obama responded to these revelations with what some believed to be feigned outrage. Black wasn’t impressed and had strong words for the commander in chief ’s lack of leadership. “He can say he’s ‘madder than hell,’ but this matter requires actions, not just words,” Black says.
Taking her own advice, Black channeled her frustration into legislation, co-sponsoring the bipartisan VA Management Accountability Act.
“This would allow the administration to let people go if they are under performing. ... Rather than having the red tape that is there, it offers the ability to put people in place that can do the job. This is not something that is isolated. It’s not just one state. We’re finding this is a systemic problem throughout the VA. So, there needs to be a lot of heads that roll here and we need to get this straightened out. This provision would allow that to happen instead of having to wait.”
Black is also working to revert the damage done by Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a horror story where the villain, Uncle Sam, places himself between patients and their doctors and the former are often faced with higher deductibles or even lost coverage.
Black even has a successful history halting the growth of Big Government health care programs. TennCare was established in Tennessee in 1994 under a federal waiver that authorized deviations from the standard Medicaid rules. Black was one of a number of conservative- minded politicians prepared to slash this bureaucratic weed, only to see it resurface in Washington.
“We ended up in Tennessee eventually repealing TennCare and going back to a regular Medicaid-only program. It didn’t work in Tennessee and lo and behold, years later we see the same kind of thing being done with Obamacare and it’s almost de´ja` vu that that would be what I’ve already experienced at the state level, that’s what’s happening now nationally. I was very concerned about that, so I decided to run for Congress in that I might have a voice in that.”
Now, as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, she is determined to not let taxpayers’ hard earned money go astray.
“I’m passionate in seeing if we’re using our dollars in the best way we can use them. For instance, the electronic health record. It’s certainly a worthy project, but it’s got a lot of broken pieces to it. We need to use our health care dollars wisely and efficiently and give the best care we can.”
Black was also a co-author of Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2014 Path to Prosperity budget, which balances the federal budget within 10 years.
“I’m very interested in tax issues and the fiscal state of our nation. We’ve got to make sure we’re not burdening our children for the future, with $17.3 trillion, and the number keeps growing. That’s the kind of debt that we’re leaving.”
The financial threat to future generations is an issue she’s particularly concerned with, for she has six grandchildren of her own.
She’s concerned for our vets and children and she’s outraged at runaway government spending. But unlike our president, Black has a record to prove she backs up her speeches with real results. •