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House Passes Bill To Allow Veterans Access To Private Care

The House bill will allow Veterans, who endured long wait times at VA facilities, to visit private doctors. The VA would then pick up the bill.
Posted at 8:25 PM, Jun 10, 2014

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday to help military veterans who endured long wait times at Veterans Affairs facilities receive care outside the VA system.

"This bill would allow vets facing long wait times to visit private doctors with the VA picking up the bill." (Via Fox News)

USA Today explains the bill — which was introduced by Republican Jeff Miller from Florida — will require the VA to also foot the bill for veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, "reimburse providers ... at a rate set by the government; and ... ban bonuses for VA employees for the next two years."

An internal audit releaesd by Veterans Affairs on Monday revealed that falsified records of patient wait times were used by employees to get favorable performance reviews and bonuses. 

The audit also found that 57,000 veterans had to wait more than three months to get an appointment and 13 percent of VA personnel said they were told to falsify records to hide longer wait times. 

The bill from the GOP-controlled House mirrors another bill currently working its way through the Democratic Senate that seeks to address those same problems.

The Senate bill, which was introduced by Sens. Bernie Sanders and John McCain, has language similar to the House bill but has more provisions. The Washington Post reports the Senate bill would allow the Veterans Health Administration to lease 26 new facilities and put $500 million toward hiring VA medical staff, along with guaranteeing in-state tuition for veterans at public colleges and universities and increasing access to care for sexual assault victims within the military.

If the Senate bill is passed, the two chambers will have to reconcile the differences to get a final bill to President Obama before July 4, when many lawmakers will leave for vacation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday he would like to get a vote on the bill by Thursday.