The bill is in response to the scandal over delayed care at VA hospitals and clinics and allegations of widespread mismanagement in the VA system.
McCaskill, senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released this statement; "This agreement is an example of what’s possible when Democrats and Republicans put politics aside and find common ground to do what’s right. Our military veterans have earned the highest quality of care, and this bipartisan legislation provides the tools necessary for the VA’s new leadership to correct clear failures in the system, and live up to the promises made to our nation’s heroes.”
Blunt joined McCaskill in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary and the VA St. Louis Health Care System demanding answers for allegations of delays at the John Cochran VA in St. Louis. “This debate shouldn't be about what's best for the VA - it's about what's best for America's veterans,” Blunt said in a statement released by his office.. “This bill is a big step in the right direction because it gives our veterans more choice and better access to the quality of care they deserve.”
The legislation would provide money for new medical facilities, more doctors and nurses, and a new program that will allow some veterans to seek health care outside the VA system.
On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary. He replaced Eric Shinseki, who resigned in May over the scandal.
McDonald has promised to swiftly carry out reforms intended to speed up care for returning soldiers entering the VA system and eliminate bogus record-keeping and other problems that resulted in some veterans.
McCaskill says the legislation approved by the Senate:
• Empowers the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to immediately hold senior VA officials accountable if they have failed to do their jobs
• Provides resources to the VA to hire additional doctors, nurses, and other health care providers.
• Expands opportunities for veterans to seek care outside of the VA system, including allowing veterans who qualify to seek care at Federally-qualified Health Centers and Department of Defense health facilities.
• Provides for greater transparency at the VA by requiring an independent assessment of the hospital care and medical services furnished in VA medical facilities, as well as an independent review of the VA’s scheduling system and scheduling software
• Tasks the VA’s independent Inspector General to identify on an annual basis the health provider occupations with the largest staffing shortages, which will give both the VA and Congress a better understanding of the Department’s needs
• Authorizes 27 major medical facility leases, including a lease for a VA clinic in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
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