Rep. Jeff Miller: Obama Will Have VA Funding Bill by Friday

Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 12:14 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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By Friday, the president should have on his desk a bill to give $17 billion to begin repairing the broken VA healthcare system, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.

Miller, R-Fla., said the money will be used to hire thousands more healthcare workers and to ensure veterans will avoid long wait times due to a combination of additional staff and the ability for veterans to seek care elsewhere.

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"There’s $10 billion in there for access to care at private facilities," Miller said on "America’s Forum." "The VA no longer controls whether the veteran gets to go there or not. They have to let them go, and it's going to be a very important test to see if veterans are going to leave the system, stay in the system, or use both."

There is also money for "deferred maintenance and small leases and small construction projects, but not [to] fund hospitals that are going to take 10 years to get built."

The VA has been in the limelight since whistleblower complaints earlier this year revealed that scores of veterans died while awaiting care after being placed on secret waiting lists designed to make it appear as though the VA provided timely care. The secret waiting lists were a longstanding practice within the dysfunctional VA Health System, where executive bonuses were tied to timeliness of care.

The bill, to be voted on in the House today, will also have language that allows senior managers to lose their jobs.

"No legislation is going to stop somebody who is immoral or who wants to cheat the system," Miller said. "That's a culture that the new secretary is going to have to change, and unfortunately that's not going to change overnight."

The current civil service protections are so strong that it’s nearly impossible to get rid of a federal worker, Miller said, and that needs to change.

"I understand somebody needs to be protected from retribution by a boss that may be mad at them, but if they're not going their job, or they're doing it illegally or inappropriately, they need to go," he said.

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