Bi-Partisan Harmony! House Passes Unanimous Bill to Allow Vets to Escape VA System
Both chambers of Congress are acting in the wake of the Veteran Affairs scandal involving the deplorable care and long waits at government hospitals, an acknowledgement that government-run healthcare isn’t working for the nation’s heroes.
Tuesday, House representatives from both parties unanimously passed legislation that would address delays in care by allowing veterans to seek treatment from private facilities if they live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital, or if they have a long wait for an appointment, according to media reports.
“An internal Veterans Affairs audit released on Monday found that tens of thousands of newly returning veterans wait at least 90 days for medical care, while even more who signed up in the agency system over the past 10 years never got an immediate appointment they requested,” CNN reported.
The House bill, sponsored by Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller – a Florida republican, passed on a vote of 421-0, according to Politico.
“The number of veterans that have received delayed care from VA facilities or were denied appointments despite being qualified for VA care is both shocking and appalling, and the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki will not fix these systemic failures,” said California republican Ed Royce, co-sponsor of the House bill.
“This legislation ensures that veterans who cannot get an appointment will still get the care they deserve. It is the least we can do for those who served our country so bravely.”
The bill is similar to one introduced by republican Arizona Sen. John McCain and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, last week, but there are several key differences.
Both bills would allow for private care for veterans on long wait lists, and those who live more than 40 miles from a VA clinic. Both would also require independent performance reviews for the Veterans Health Administration that oversees VA hospitals, the Washington Post reported.
The House bill, however, contains a provision to cancel all bonuses for VA employees through 2016, which would extend the ban on performance awards for VA executives already in place for this year – something not found in the Senate proposal.
The legislation in the Senate also contains several provisions that weren’t included in the House bill, including authorization to lease 26 facilities for VA health care and $500 million to hire more VA staffers, according to the Post.
“The Senate measure would also guarantee in-state tuition for all veterans at public colleges and universities, in addition to expanding access to care for military sexual assault victims,” the Post reported.
The legislation approved by the House Tuesday is among numerous bills aimed at addressing the deplorable conditions of VA hospitals across the country that have been documented by Progressives Today and other media.
“This week, there will be a vote that reflects our notion of freedom of health care for our veterans so that our veterans are not tied up on these waiting lists so that they too can have the option of accessing care in the private space if it’s unavailable at the VA,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said, according to Politico. “Our position has always been more choice for not only our veterans, but for all Americans when it comes to health care.”