Members of Congress had better watch out. If they end up compromising and working together to pass a veterans reform bill, more than 15% of Americans just might approve of the job they are doing.
I know, I know, that’s probably a stretch.
According to The Hill, if passed the veterans’ reform bill “would provide $10 billion for veterans to seek private care at hospitals and clinics outside the VA, and $5 billion to allow the department to hire more doctors, nurses and medical staff. Another $1.5 billion could be spent on leases to use other medical facilities at 27 sites around the country.”
The bill gives the new Veterans Affairs secretary the ability “to fire staff at a department where officials covered up the long waits many veterans endured to get healthcare.”
I’ve written several times that there needs to be significant changes in the way VA care is delivered. We can’t build or lease space for a VA clinic in every town because it’s remote. What we can do is give veterans access to civilian healthcare in their hometown – and it would be free for service-connected veterans.
The new bill does deal with access issues. It “allows veterans to get care from non-Veterans Affairs physicians who participate in Medicare if they live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility, or if agency doctors cannot see them within 30 days.”
I hope most members of Congress voting on this bill realize that this is a start, not an end to providing better healthcare for veterans. A lot more needs to be done.
One of the leaders of the compromise and deal-making was “democratic socialist” Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sanders is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He is not a veteran. House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, (R-FL) was the leader on the House side. He is also not a veteran.
Nonetheless, Sanders and Miller reached a deal. It does not give everyone what they wanted. The Senate bill that was passed in June would cost $35 billion and the House bill that was passed would cost $44 billion (Source). This new bill is around $17 billion.
The House and the Senate should pass this bill before they leave for August recess. If they have to stay a few extra days to get it done, do it. Veterans are counting on you.
## END ##