We have been regularly covering the ongoing tragedy regarding our veteran’s health care. From medical malpractice to government cover ups, the story has been heart wrenching. The proud men and women who served this country well have been regularly denied access to the health care they desperately need; health care that is sometimes needed as a direct result of their service. The federal government finally appears to be taking action to solved this crisis.
New Federal Legislation
ABC News reports that the House approved a bill on Wednesday to help veterans avoid the waits that have plagued them for years at VA facilities. The bill carries a price tag of $16.3 billion and if it becomes law, it would allow the VA to hire thousands of doctors and nurses. It would also allow the VA to rewrite its employment rules so that it would have an easier time firing high level executives in the system who are failing to perform.
Obviously it will take time to hire these doctors and nurses on such a grand scale. So the bill also includes $10 billion in emergency spending. This $10 billion would be used to pay for veterans who cannot get prompt appointments at a local VA to see non-VA doctors. It also includes funds to lease new clinics all over the country.
While this is an excellent start, the New York Times reports that the bill does not give the VA all of the resources it claims it will need to solve all of its problems. For example, Sloan D. Gibson, who was acting Veterans Affairs secretary, has said the department will need almost $18 billion for overhauls just to meet current need. Most of that money is needed for new clinic space and to hire more doctors. There are also concerns that the House bill does not include money to update the VA’s flawed appointment scheduling system, which is at the very heart of the current controversy over manipulated waiting lists resulting in delayed and denied treatment for veterans.
The Washington Post reports that the Senate approved the House bill on Thursday night with a vote of 91 to 3. The bill will now go to President Obama for his signature. This move comes on the tail of other big news from the VA. Earlier this week the Senate unanimously confirmed Robert McDonald as the new secretary of the agency. Previous secretary Eric K. Shinseki retired in the wake of the scandal back in May, and Sloan D. Gibson ran the agency until a new, permanent secretary could be nominated and confirmed. Secretary Gibson is the retired Chairman, President, and CEO of Procter & Gamble. He was sworn-in on July 30, after having been nominated by President Obama for the position on July 7, 2014.
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