Senators Announce Accord on Improving Veterans’ Care

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from The New York Times,

Senators reached a bipartisan accord on Thursday to bolster the authority of the acting veterans affairs secretary, allowing him to fire senior officials and to expand health care access to veterans stuck on long waiting lists at the department’s hospitals.

The deal between Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, is likely to be the main legislative response to the scandal involving secret waiting lists and other efforts to paper over crushing waits for veterans seeking health care.

“We have learned that in many parts of this country veterans cannot get the timely care that they need,” Mr. Sanders said. “So this bill in a significant way begins to address that important issue.”

In the short run, the agreement would authorize veterans to seek care from private doctors, paid for by the Department of Veterans Affairs. That provision would apply to veterans who are either stuck on a waiting list or who live 40 miles or more from one of the department’s medical centers. It also would authorize the department to lease 26 major medical facilities in 18 states and Puerto Rico to try to shrink the backlog.

It would provide $500 million to bolster the Veteran Affairs Department’s ability to recruit and retain doctors. And the deal includes a measure to improve the delivery of care to veterans who were victims of sexual assault while in the military.

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