After weeks of appearing to be another victim of a gridlocked Congress, a bill to improve access to health care in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system is now poised for a vote in both chambers.
Called the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, the compromise bill was reached by leaders of the Senate and House veterans affairs committees, and was developed in response to news early this year of lengthy wait times—and alleged administrative efforts to cover up those waits—for patients in the VA system. The issue sparked congressional hearings and ultimately led to the resignation of then-VA head Eric Shinseki, but legislative efforts to address the problem seemed to stall as the summer wore on.
The $17 billion deal includes:
The deal is paid for in part through $5 billion in spending cuts in the agency, with the remainder of the price tag to be considered emergency mandatory spending that would add to the deficit—a problem for some Republicans in Congress. Spending cuts include a ban on performance bonuses in the agency through 2016, and an August 1 deadline for veterans to opt into the private care alternative.
Reports on the compromise from the New York Times, Politico, CNN, and other outlets described the legislation as having wide support, but not necessarily guaranteed success.
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