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Congress Reaches Deal on VA Reform Bill

Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:00:33 +0000

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After weeks of negotiations, the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees announced a deal Monday that provides at least $15 billion to help address the healthcare issues at the embattled Department of Veterans Administration.

“Funding for veterans’ needs must be considered a cost of war and appropriated as emergency spending. Planes and tanks and guns are a cost of war, so is taking care of the men and women who use those weapons and who fight our battles,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said.

“We have a VA that is in crisis today. This agreement will go a long way to helping resolve the crisis that exists out there today.  Helping to get veterans off waiting lists is extremely important and this bill does that,” Rep. Jeff Sanders, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said.

The deal provides for $10 billion, which is considered “mandatory emergency money,” to contract care outside of the VA system. An additional $5 billion, which is all offset within the VA, is allotted to hiring new doctors, nurses and clinicians within the VA system. The bill also allows veterans living more than 40 miles away from a VA facility to obtain care outside the VA network.

Some Republicans might object to the measure because it does not include as many offsets to pay for the funding, but Miller remained optimistic that he will be able to convince enough House Republicans to back the measure.

“I come from a sales background before I came to Congress, and I think I can do an adequate job,” Miller said. “As we go through the process, there will be an educational process that will have to take place. Obviously some of our members will need a little more educating than others.”

The chairmen hope to have the bill passed by the end of the week.  The conference committee will still need to approve the bill before it heads to the House and Senate for a full vote.

“It is absolutely imperative that we get this bill done, and we get it done now before the August break,” Sanders said.

Passing the VA reform bill is part of a long to-do list that Congress has to complete before it heads into a five week recess, along with providing funding for highway projects and President Obama’s emergency spending request to deal with the influx of unaccompanied minors streaming across the U.S. Texas border.

“The United States Congress today in my view is a dysfunctional institution,” Sanders said. “There are major issue after major issue where virtually nothing is happening when important legislation needs to be happening.”


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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