“We took an oath and we fulfilled that oath,” said Lewis, of Decatur. “And Congress needs to fulfill their side of the bargain.”
Lawmakers -- including Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson, who leads the Senate VA Committee -- passed an accountability bill last year making it easier for VA leaders to fire problematic employees, but they've struggled to nail down an agreement on the future of the department's Choice program, which allows some vets to see non-VA doctors using public dollars.
Harold Watkins, a U.S. Army veteran, got involved in the American Legion after struggling for years to get adequate medical care from conditions he traces to his service in the Vietnam War.
“I’ve had so many problems getting my issues taken care of,” said Watkins, who suffers from diabetes and neuropathy, “and I wanted to educate veterans.”
He was blunt about his hopes for the next VA secretary.
“He’ll have to be more responsive or he will be gone, too,” said Watkins. “Look, I’m apolitical. But I’m also a patient at the VA hospital. They are taking great care of me now. But the fact is: he will do his job, or he won’t be there.”