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Thursday, May 30 2013 11:58 AM

'First Look': Congressman tackles VA backlog, valley fever

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    By The Californian

    In this file photo, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, talks politics on "First Look with Scott Cox."

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Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, zeroed in on two main topics Thursday during an appearance on “First Look with Scott Cox” — the backlog in processing disability claims at the Veterans Administration and valley fever.

“That is so unacceptable,” McCarthy said of 260-day average backlogs at the VA for people to get answers about benefits, adding he had an audit done by the Government Accountability Office to find out exactly how long it was taking to evaluate claims.

“There’s no more time to talk about it. Now is the time for action,” McCarthy said. He said the VA is a big bureaucracy, and he called for better communication between offices.

“It’s got to change from the top down,” McCarthy said. “I am willing to make people depart and restructure the entire thing. That’s why the legislation that I put in sets a timeline, it puts in the recommendations, it doesn’t give people to make excuses and it’s no more studying the problem. It’s now implementing solutions.”

The congressman also talked about the importance of getting a vaccine for valley fever, and more education to spread the word about the dangers of valley fever, such as urging people to stay inside during windstorms.

He’s met with people at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes for Health. A symposium on valley fever is planned for September in Bakersfield.

McCarthy said the public needs greater awareness, a clinical test and a vaccine.

“We want to go towards the vaccine,” McCarthy said. “How do we make that happen? I’ve got some exciting news to probably announce right before September that I think will move us in that right direction.”

He noted that the costs of valley fever are high — California spends millions of dollars annually just to care for people who get it while incarcerated in state prisons.

Simulcast host Scott Cox said he thinks valley fever would get more attention if someone famous got it.

McCarthy said government can only take things so far to show that a vaccine can be fiscally viable. Then someone can grab it and go from there. Watch the video to hear more.


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