Tags: Veterans hospitals | Veterans Affairs | US Senate | healthcare

Senators Reach Bipartisan Deal on Veterans' Healthcare

Thursday, 05 Jun 2014 03:41 PM

U.S. Senate negotiators announced a bipartisan agreement on a plan to hire more doctors and nurses at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals in an effort to reduce the long waits for many veterans seeking care.

“We have a crisis on our hands,” Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said on the Senate floor today. “We have learned that in many parts of this country -- not all parts, but many parts -- veterans cannot get the timely care that they need.”

The plan, negotiated with Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, would allow construction of 26 medical facilities in 18 states and would provide $500 million for hiring doctors and nurses, Sanders said. The proposal would make it easier to fire senior VA health officials for poor performance, while allowing them to appeal.

Lawmakers are facing pressure to eliminate long delays at many VA hospitals for veterans seeking doctors’ appointments. At least 40 veterans died while awaiting care in Phoenix, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, has said.

An inspector general’s report on May 28 found systemic mismanagement, treatment delays and falsified records throughout hospitals that treat 8.3 million veterans. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned two days later.

At the Phoenix VA hospital, an official list showed that veterans waited 24 days for their first primary-care appointment, while a more complete list -- which was kept secret -- showed the average waiting time was 115 days, according to the report.

“This isn’t a scheduling problem,” McCain said on the Senate floor. “These are systemic problems that need to be addressed.”

“Every single day that goes by a veteran is deprived of the care that he or she has earned serving this country,” McCain said.

The lawmakers didn’t immediately say when the Senate will vote on the plan.

Under the proposal, veterans who live at least 40 miles from VA medical facilities would be able to seek non-VA care. In addition, veterans would receive in-state college tuition regardless of where they live after being discharged from the military.

President Barack Obama has said the VA, which spends $160 billion annually, needs a new health information system and may need more doctors and nurses.

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U.S. Senate negotiators announced a bipartisan agreement on a plan to hire more doctors and nurses at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals in an effort to reduce the long waits for many veterans seeking care.
Veterans hospitals, Veterans Affairs, US Senate, healthcare
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2014-41-05
Thursday, 05 Jun 2014 03:41 PM
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