Senate approves VA reform bill
June 11th, 2014
05:58 PM ET
6 years ago

Senate approves VA reform bill

Washington (CNN) - The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved broad reforms to the Department of Veterans Affairs less than two weeks after a health care scandal led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The vote was 93 to 3.

The unusually swift bipartisan passage spoke to the alarm lawmakers felt when reports revealed tens of thousands of veterans waited months for doctor appointments. The problems were worsened by agency employees who created false waiting lists to try to hide the crisis.

The bill makes it easier for the VA secretary to fire executive employees, creates 26 new VA medical facilities around the country, and authorizes $500 million for the hiring of new doctors and nurses. It allows veterans waiting for care to go to private physicians and send their bills to the VA, among other provisions.

The legislation needs to be melded with similar House measures, a process which is also expected to happen quickly.

To ensure swift passage, Republicans set aside their concerns that the spending in the bill breaks budget caps. Many GOP senators argued the VA crisis is so dire it deserves to be treated as an emergency and therefore the costs don’t not need to be offset with spending cuts elsewhere.

Filed under: Senate • Veterans Affairs
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Silence DoGood

    "To ensure swift passage, Republicans set aside their concerns that the spending in the bill breaks budget caps. "
    That is appropriate. If the GOP didn't care about spending when they endorsed starting a war in the wrong country, they better sure as heck not care when the Vets come home.

    June 11, 2014 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  2. Beeman

    Thank GOD. That is something we could all agree on.

    June 11, 2014 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  3. Gurgyl

    -what VA bill separately? Ridiculous and idiotic. Why not we just include in ACA Law, make an addendum to the supplement of Healthcare Legislation? So that we can include all of USA citizenry into one piece of legislation.

    June 11, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  4. Libby Raul Czar-Lazlows

    Why not use the $ millions that Obama uses for the FDA to teach criminal immigrants on how to get food stamps. That money should be used for our citizens that put their life on the line for our freedoms.

    Oh... That's right... Obama and Co. prefer to help criminal immigrants than our own.

    June 11, 2014 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  5. don in albuquerque

    Ahh election time. Time to do something about things that have been screwed up for decades, and try to lay all the blame on one or two current guys.

    June 11, 2014 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |

    This is great news 🙂 Thank you .

    June 11, 2014 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  7. Liz the First

    Mark this day down on the calendar. republicans had a good idea and did something to help people. we haven't seen that in a very long time and we may never see it again. this is the most sensible solution to this shameful problem. well done! see what you can accomplish when you don't look at everything thru the prism of the almighty dollar? now if we could get them to see the light on climate change, maybe we could save the planet in time for our grandchildren to have a decent life.

    June 11, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  8. Libby Raul Czar-Lazlows

    Obama will probably veto it in favor for more criminal immigrants support as he has demonstrated time and time again that he favors them over our own Vets.

    June 11, 2014 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  9. Jeff

    It is a real shame that we have to go to these steps when all of this should have been properly managed and problems/issues should have been tabled for action earlier. I would hate to think that "once" Congress feels that the VA backlog is corrected and that vet's can be seen in a timely manner, and with total competence, that some or all of those 26 facilities will be shuttered.

    June 11, 2014 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  10. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    Truman talked about VA wait times being too long ... TRUMAN! Good to see Congress finally doing something about this.

    June 11, 2014 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  11. amarjeet

    Good, it is sad that Secretary took the assignment seriously which was a part of active military operation. He being from defense background should have if not done more at least taken stock of and put up proposal to President.

    June 11, 2014 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  12. Thomas

    Thank you , it's about time !

    After two 14 year conflicts , expect some waiting time at the VA .

    It's almost time to cut taxes for people making over 2 million a year.

    June 12, 2014 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  13. BErnard

    THey need to clean the senate up quickly

    June 12, 2014 03:04 am at 3:04 am |
  14. cbp

    The VA hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of vets who need health care. This has been problem since we invaded Iraq. More and more military personnel are returning from the war zone with health issues.'

    Isn't it funny that the Senate can act quickly. It is hard to believe that no members of Congress heard from these men and women when they could not get appointments. There have been problems all along and this scandal has brought them to our attention. The bonus system added a little of fuel to the fire. No one wanted to lost the bonus which just makes us realize that this is a middle management problem . This gives Congress something to do since the Republicans do not want to work problems out through compromise and to help the Country move forward.

    June 12, 2014 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
  15. Third

    So in February the majority of Senate Republicans voted 'No' on a VA Bill to open more facilities, hire more doctors and such. Now the majority of them vote 'Yes', strange how 4 months made such a huge difference.

    June 12, 2014 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  16. pete veslocki

    We need to see the length of delays by race for all VA facilities.

    June 12, 2014 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  17. jimstaro

    VA 'scandal'? It's the Country Served and Their Representatives, mostly from conservative ideology and especially under conservative administrations, free wars and privatize for corporate profit causing problems to compound by obstructing full funding and ignoring many many issues, 'SCANDAL'! Decades and Wars of Long!!

    The Country that 'Talks the Talk' but rarely 'Walks the Walk', patriotism posers who loves the free wars and ignore any sacrifice as to the long term results from, while ignoring the many issues of Veterans, those that served them, especially as a result of our wars, their representatives leading that ignoring while attacking the under funded VA, decades now and wars from, they control the purse strings of the Country!

    The Fallen Brothers and Sisters and Our Veterans Community are Not a Corporate Marketing Tool Especially on Memorial and Veterans' Days!!!!!!!

    "In fiscal 2013, the VA spent about $4.8 billion, or about one-tenth of its healthcare costs, on private care, often for veterans who live far from VA facilities or veterans in need of care unavailable at a VA facility."

    “Why in 2009 were we still using paper?” VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers “When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade.” 27 March 2013

    TX-19 Congressional Candidate Neal Marchbanks – Veteran: 28 March 2014 – "Congress controls the budget for the VA and it is the fault of Congress that the VA does not have enough employees and that the facilities are too small."
    Congress, in Veteran Marchbanks statement, are the people served and who representatives work for, or are supposed to!

    USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71 – Independent**

    June 12, 2014 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  18. Richard Levine

    You always have to think it out when the government makes a deal. More hospitals = pork for reps' hometowns whether they are needed there or not? I was at a VA Healthcare clinic today and noted a booklet about tele-medicine being and secure messaging being used as one of the advances of the VA. With the tele-medicine the VA professionals can have video conference calls with their patients so that they can see and review them from home or a nearby VA facility. The Congress seems to ignore this, or at least it is not mentioned in your article. Secure Messaging, on the VA website for veterans allows me to send questions to my VA healthcare team between visits and receive responses in a relatively short time. These capabilities negate the necessity of opening up more brick and mortar facilities at savings to the taxpayers.
    When I saw that the government was going to take action I became concerned because I realized that anything they’ve done in the last few years have not worked, or not worked well.
    In addition I believe, besides firing the few incompetents is to support the following capabilities:
    1. Some veterans live too far from a VA emergency room, so may have to go to a non-VA hospital ER. The current regulations limit reimbursement, based on so many regulations to very few of the veterans under their care. This needs to be changed to include all veterans without exceptions as such a visit can easily bankrupt the veteran if the VA does not cover them.
    2. Dental care is strictly limited to the few veterans who need it based on damage done during their time in service. As dental care is extremely expensive and necessary to the health of all veterans it needs to be covered completely. The VA recently started a dental plan via two insurance companies, with its cost and exceptions to care I look at it as a sick joke. Full dental care must be provided for all veterans at all VA hospitals with no exception.
    3. The VA in conjunction with university medical researches does extensive research and has found some amazing breakthroughs. However, by law they can’t further use, or further develop for marketing these breakthroughs for the veterans or civilians. For example, several years ago they developed a breakthrough for cataract replacement. However, no commercial medical companies advance this development for finalization and marketing probably because it would limit the large profits from the current approach to cataract correction. This has to stop, and the VA must be allowed to further develop these medical breakthroughs.

    June 12, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |