Senate and House Move with Lightning Speed to Pass Veterans’ Care Acts

Congress has had one busy week. In response to growing public outrage over the treatment scandal at numerous VA facilities, the House and the Senate have each passed VA Health Care Reform Bills in record-breaking time. It’s practically unheard of to have Congress move so quickly—a wonderful sign that the VA might finally get the support it needs to begin fixing the major flaws in its system.

Both bills have had overwhelming bi-partisan support, with the House bill passing unanimously and the Senate bill passing 93-3. The next step is to have a committee unite the two bills into a single final bill to pass on to the president for final approval. Due to the fact that the bills are very similar, Congressional leaders from both chambers expect the final compromise bill to be sent to the president by the end of June.
The following are the main key points in both bills. Since both bills include them all, it’s pretty safe to assume that they’ll be in the final bill once it’s officially passed.
  • The Secretary of the VA will be given the authority to fire personnel for poor performance or negligence, and those personnel will only have a short time to file an appeal.
  • No bonuses are to be paid to VA personnel until the VA Secretary is able to submit proof to Congress that the backlog of claims has been dealt with.
  • Veterans who aren’t able to get an appointment within 30 days or who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility will be able to be authorized to obtain medical care at a DoD facility, a federal health facility, or at private facilities that accept Medicare.
  • The VA will be given $500 million in “emergency” funding to hire additional doctors and nurses (a definite necessity and the biggest factor that caused the secret waiting lists).
  • Task forces will be formed to evaluate and monitor appointment scheduling, claims procedures, backlogs, and the overall VA health system. Based on their findings, they will make suggestions to the VA and to Congress on how to fix the flaws in the system. They will be required to follow a scheduled timeline to make periodic reports of their findings and recommendations to Congress. As the VA implements the task forces’ recommendations, it will be required to meet deadlines and to also report to Congress regularly on its progress.
The following are just in the Senate bill and so may not be included in the final compromised bill.
  • The VA would be given the funds to acquire 26 new VA facilities.
  • A thorough training program would be started for both claims processors and VA employees that make medical appointments.
  • A technical task force would be created to review the current VA scheduling needs, and it would have the authority to fund any changes it recommends.
It is very encouraging to see Congress respond so quickly to this VA scandal, and we hope that their optimistic estimate of sending the final bill to the president by the end of June will hold true. We will continue to monitor the situation and report back to you with all the details once the bill has been signed into law.
Positive change to help our vets is finally coming! It’s just too bad that so many had to be harmed before people took enough notice to make these changes happen.
NEWSFLASH:  On Wednesday, June 11, 2014, the same day that the Senate passed its bill, the FBI announced that it was opening a criminal investigation into allegations that wrongful deaths have resulted from delayed care. So far, 23 deaths have been officially linked to the unofficial waiting lists. Right now, the FBI investigation is only in Phoenix, but it will most likely expand to other locations as well.

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