It’s a timely step towards the resolution of what has been an ongoing scandal for the VA in recent months. Reuters reported allegations from doctors in Phoenix who “alleged that some 40 veterans died as their names languished on secret waiting lists while officials misrepresented wait-time data to meet targets for bonus compensation.”
The bill will grant around $17 billion towards services for frustrated veterans. Approximately $10 billion of that figure will allow veterans who live over 40 miles from a VA hospital to opt out for private healthcare or services that are closer to home. Five billion of it will fund more medical staff, doctors and nurses for VA hospitals. There will also be money spent on leasing new VA medical facilities, educational support provided for veteran’s widows and the bill will allow VA management to enforce some long overdue organizational change.
Co-author Bernie Sanders, who’s an Independent, and Republican Representative, Jeff Miller, had proposed two very different bills. But with a five week August break fast approaching, they managed to come to an agreement and now it’s up to Congress to move quickly if they’ve any hope in providing relief to veterans.
Though the bill is offset by $5 billion of savings made in the current Department of Veteran’s Affairs budget, they’ll need to pass 12 billion of emergency funding that will increase the national deficit. The New York Times details the next steps in the process. “Before it can be sent to the White House for President Obama’s signature, the legislation must be approved by a conference committee of lawmakers, and by the full House and Senate.”
This news will not only ease the load for veterans, but also increase the outlook for the Veterans’ Association, which has suffered a blow to its reputation in the recent healthcare scandal. Once considered a quality source of healthcare, the VA is yet to recover from accusations that it manipulated wait-time statistics.
Many will be waiting to see the effect this new bill will have on the realities of veterans living with health problems. Though it may not provide the relief that Sanders had hoped, it is more than what Miller would have put forward, and is in that sense, a true compromise.
(Photo courtesy of The U.S. Army)