Senate to take up new VA bill after scandal

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 1, 2014 at 2:38 pm •  Published: June 1, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — Details of a refashioned bill to address the problems plaguing the federally run veterans' health care system were released Sunday by its sponsor, the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, posted a summary of his bill Sunday and said it would be introduced this week.

The bill includes several new provisions aimed at fixing the long delays for veterans' care. The long-simmering issue erupted into a scandal in April and led to last week's resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki after a federal investigation into the troubled Phoenix VA Health Care System found that about 1,700 veterans in need of care were "at risk of being lost or forgotten" after being kept off an official waiting list.

The investigation also found broad and deep-seated problems throughout the sprawling health care system, which provides medical care to about 6.5 million veterans annually.

Sanders said in a statement issued Sunday that while the people who have lied or manipulated data must be punished, "we also need to get to the root causes of the problems that have been exposed."

The bill would allow veterans facing long delays to seek care outside the VA, at private doctors' offices, military bases or community health centers. It also authorizes emergency funding to hire new doctors and nurses and would provide scholarships or forgive college loans for doctors and nurses who go to work at the VA. In addition, it would give the department authority to fire poor-performing executives, but not as broadly as a bill passed in the House and defeated in the Senate last month.

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