The Trenches at Home: House, Senate Agree to Deal on VA Reform
While the House Veterans Affairs Committee waits to pass a bill aimed at preventing suicide, the top concern of Veterans according to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s 2014 member survey. However, it does seem that the Congress is able to do something about the waterfall of crises related to the public exposure of massive failures by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and HVAC chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) “worked through the weekend” to reach a deal on a bill that will “make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit…more healthcare professionals,” according to Fox News. All evidence seems to suggest this deal will pass through Congress before they begin a five-week summer break.
The two legislators agreed to $15 billion in emergency funding, according to early figures from Roll Call. “$10 billion for a new private care option for veterans and another $5 billion for improvements within the VA, like hiring doctors and nurses and upgrading facilities.” There had been a $10 billion disparity between House and Senate versions of the bill. It seems that though a compromise was reached, the VA, it seems, was again short-changed by some $5 billion.
According to Fox News, “The proposal would authorize at least $17 billion in spending over the next three years to fix the veterans health program.”
At least 18 veterans died waiting for appointments from the VA, but what is most egregious is that they were on a secret waiting list kept to help fudge statistics in place by then-VA secretary Eric Shinseki. According to the 2014 IAVA Member Survey, 72 percent of veterans are satisfied with their VA care when they get it, but more than 90 percent were satisfied with their non-VA providers.
Thus, this bill is just a field-dressing on a sucking chest wound. While many have suggested that the VA’s problems are not budgetary, it is fairly obvious if that there had been more administrative employees (reduced in the sequester) and more of an effort to upgrade facilities and try to attract medical talent, the VA scandal would have never happened.
Photo by schizoform via Flickr