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  • Deal on VA Includes Money for More Providers, New Facilities

    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:

    • A $5 billion allocation to hire more health care providers with the largest staffing shortages
    • Authorization for the VA to lease 27 new major medical facilities
    • An option for veterans to use a Medicare provider, a federally qualified health center, or a Department of Defense or Indian Health Service facility if the wait for or distance to treatment is too long
    • An extension of the Health Professionals Educational Assistance Program that helps medical professionals through scholarships, tuition reimbursement, and debt reduction
    • Additional authority for the VA secretary to fire or demote employees for mismanagement

    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.


    • The House bill cut out the performance bonuses until 2016 but the Senate put them back in decreasing them to $240+ million instead of $300 million. That is obscene and a slap in the face to the taxpayers and the veterans. Why are bonuses even included in this broken system? Think of what that amount of $$ could do to further facilitate treatment of those who really need it instead of rewarding a manager who has manipulated the system without regard for those who need the care! Special interest groups and unions are running our greedy big government. Please let your congress know that you are not happy with what is going on in Washington DC.

      Posted by David Knoeppel on 8/3/2014 11:17 AM

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