VA investigations have confirmed that 35 deaths have occurred so far among the 1700+ patients on the “unofficial” waiting list at the Phoenix facility. Officials are examining records on a case-by-case basis to determine if any of these deaths are related directly to the delay in receiving care.
Meanwhile, our Senators have been busy this week, hashing out the details of a bill to address the expanding crisis at the VA. Late Thursday afternoon, Senator Bernie Sanders, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, announced the details of the bill, which has overwhelming bipartisan support. Parts of nearly a dozen proposed measures were used to create the bill.
Here are a few highlights from the bill:
- Veterans who experience wait times of 30 days or more or who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility will be eligible to receive care from a federally qualified health care facility, a DoD health care facility, or a private facility that accepts Medicare.
- The VA Secretary will be given the authority to immediately fire or demote senior officials connected to mismanaged or delayed care. The individual would be removed from the payroll immediately but would have 1 week to appeal the decision to the Merit System Protection Board. The Board would then have 3 weeks to make a final decision.
- The VA would be given approval to lease 26 major medical facilities in at least 18 states
- $500 million dollars would be given to the VA to hire more physicians and nurses.
The bill, which has the support of many veterans’ groups, is expected to clear the Senate this week and be sent to the House, where it is hoped that it will quickly be passed.