A VA health care overhaul is finally within reach. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved the landmark VA Health Care bill with a vote of 420-5. Former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald was also sworn in as the new Secretary.
The summer has been marred by ongoing revelations into the countless examples of abuse in the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) across the United States. It became clear our veterans’ care was poor or nonexistent.
This week, House and Senate negotiators finally came to a $16.3 billion compromise to overhaul the VA system. Since the bill has passed the House of Representatives, it will go on to the Senate and hopefully end up on President Obama’s desk by the end of the week.
The core aspects of the bill helps veterans avoid the long waits that plagued the previous system, hire more doctors and nurses, as well as make it easier to fire VA officials if they are not performing adequately. $10 billion is designated as an emergency fund for veterans who cannot be accommodated for prompt VA appointments and must seek outside medical assistance. $1.5 billion will be used to hire new doctors and nurses, and the remaining $1.5 billion will be used to lease 27 new facilities around the U.S.
The Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, says giving veterans a choice and allowing them to take control of their care can help solve the problem. If the bill makes it through, veterans can choose to stay in the system or get government-paid health care from a private doctor.
The bill will was relatively popular on both sides of the aisle, clearly reflected in the vote count but there were some detractors. House Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has issues with the bill provision that gives the Secretary wide latitude in firing officials who are deemed ill-fitting for the role. Hoyer believes it will politicize the position and detract from the real mission of helping veterans. Aside from Hoyer, many Republicans, including Tea Party favorite, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (KS), believe there needs to be a fundamental change of leadership, from the president down to the doctors to provide the care veterans deserve.
Now that VA Secretary McDonald is in, how can he ensure this bill will solve the VA’s problems? Will the bill reverse the poor care, negligent oversight, and irresponsible leadership that has plagued the VA for years?
Check out the ongoing discussions on RallyPoint throughout the summer on the VA. Weigh in here or here and connect within the military community.