Congress has passed a bill to help veterans avoid long waits for health care and fix other problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate easily approved the $16.3 billion compromise measure Thursday night on a 91-3 vote, a day after it was overwhelmingly passed by the House. It now goes to President Obama for his signature.
The compromise is a response to reports that veterans were waiting months or years for care, with VA employees covering up the delays. “The wait times that veterans have experience are really unacceptable and outrageous,” said Wisconsin Democrat, Senator Tammy Baldwin, who voted for the measure, as did the state’s GOP Senator Ron Johnson. “This bill uses a number of strategies to reduce those wait times and make sure our veterans get the care they are promised.”
Baldwin was pleased with a provision that adds 1500 graduate medical education residents to the VA Health Service. “This is welcome news not only to our VA health system, but it’s also welcome news to our medical schools, that have been urging Congress to act on increasing the number of training slots,” she said. The deal includes $10 billion in emergency funding, allowing veterans to go to private doctors if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or are told they must wait more than 14 days for an appointment.