How Congress Plans to Fix the VA

Lawmakers rolled out long-awaited legislation Monday that aims to boost funding and give veterans greater access to outside care.

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 08: Exterior view of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on May 8, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Department of Veteran Affairs has come under fire after reports of the deaths of 40 patients forced to wait for medical care at the Phoenix VA hopsital.
National Journal
July 28, 2014, 10:21 a.m.

De­term­ined to prove bi­par­tis­an­ship is still alive, law­makers rolled out le­gis­la­tion Monday to fix the em­battled Vet­er­ans Af­fairs De­part­ment that in­cludes com­prom­ises from both sides of the aisle.

“It goes without say­ing that we have a VA that is in crisis today. This agree­ment will go a long way to re­solve the crisis,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, chair­man of the House Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee.

The bill provides $17 bil­lion to the VA, a ma­jor­ity of which will go to­ward ex­pand­ing ac­cess to private health care for vet­er­ans out­side VA fa­cil­it­ies. The le­gis­la­tion also calls for hir­ing more clini­cians, leas­ing more VA fa­cil­it­ies, and mak­ing it easi­er to fire VA staffers.

The con­fer­ence com­mit­tee has been work­ing to ne­go­ti­ate a com­prom­ise bill between the House and Sen­ate ver­sions, but talks ap­peared to be all but over at the end of last week. However, law­makers said Sunday that they had made sig­ni­fic­ant pro­gress over the week­end.

“Con­gress is very di­vided right now. The House has its views, and the Sen­ate has its views, and Jeff and I had to work through these things,” said Sen­ate Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Chair­man Bernie Sanders on Monday, adding that law­makers have a “mor­al ob­lig­a­tion” to get the le­gis­la­tion passed.

Law­makers ex­pect the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee to sign off on the pro­pos­al Monday, in their quest to have the le­gis­la­tion wrapped up by the Au­gust re­cess.

“This VA con­fer­ence com­mit­tee le­gis­la­tion “¦ is far from what I would have writ­ten if I had to do it alone, and I sus­pect it’s fair to say that that it’s far from what Chair­man Miller would have done,” Sanders said at Monday’s press con­fer­ence.

The fund­ing pro­posed Monday is sig­ni­fic­antly lower than the amount Sanders out­lined in le­gis­la­tion last week.

In a back and forth between the House and Sen­ate VA com­mit­tees Thursday, the Ver­mont in­de­pend­ent took to the Sen­ate floor and said House law­makers were “not ser­i­ous about ne­go­ti­ations.” Sanders es­tim­ated that his pro­pos­al would cost un­der $25 bil­lion. Sanders’s le­gis­la­tion in­cluded money for staff­ing, in­fra­struc­ture, in­form­a­tion tech­no­logy, and a two-year pro­gram that would in­crease vet­er­ans’ ac­cess to non-VA care.

But Miller rolled out a com­pet­ing pro­pos­al at an open con­fer­ence com­mit­tee meet­ing later on Thursday, in which the Flor­ida Re­pub­lic­an offered $10 bil­lion to the de­part­ment to ex­pand vet­er­ans’ ac­cess to private care and build new fa­cil­it­ies.

The VA has been un­der fire in re­cent months amid an ever-grow­ing scan­dal that in­cludes al­leg­a­tions of data ma­nip­u­la­tion at med­ic­al fa­cil­it­ies and dis­ab­il­ity claims of­fices, and of vet­er­ans dy­ing while wait­ing for care.

What We're Following See More »
AMONG INVESTIGATION'S LAST KNOWN INTERVIEWS
Mueller Has Interviewed Press Sec. Sarah Sanders
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has interviewed White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, she told CNN on Friday...The interview is one of the final known interviews by Mueller's team. It was conducted late last year, around the same time as the special counsel interviewed then-White House chief of staff John Kelly, well after a number of other senior officials, including former White House communications director Hope Hicks and former press secretary Sean Spicer, were brought in for questioning."

Source:
AG BECERRA CALLS TRUMP'S PLAN A 'FOOLISH PROPOSAL'
Gov. Newsom Says California Will Sue Trump Over Emergency Declaration
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that California was planning to sue the Trump administration over its declaration of a national emergency on the southern border with Mexico, delivering on a promise state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra made last week 'to reject this foolish proposal in court the moment it touches the ground.'...'No other state is going to be impacted by this declaration of emergency more than the state of California,' the governor said. Becerra said attorneys were reviewing the declaration and would develop the legal argument to take to court in the near future."

Source:
AVOIDS SHUTDOWN WITH A FEW HOURS TO SPARE
Trump Signs Border Deal
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Source:
JUDGE SIDES WITH MUELLER
Stone Under Gag Order
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"A federal judge on Friday ordered Roger Stone, his attorneys and the special counsel’s office to halt all public commentary about the case involving charges that the longtime Donald Trump associate lied to Congress and obstructed its Russia investigation. In a four-page order, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson sided with Mueller that Stone and his attorneys 'must refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.'"

Source:
HAS NOT BEEN INCLUDED SINCE 1950
Supreme Court Will Rule on Census Citizenship Question
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Supreme Court added a politically explosive case to its low-profile docket Friday, agreeing to decide by the end of June whether the Trump administration can add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census form sent to every American household. The census hasn’t asked the question of each household since 1950, and a federal judge last month stopped the Commerce Department from adding it to the upcoming count. He questioned the motives of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and said the secretary broke a 'veritable smorgasbord' of federal rules by overriding the advice of career officials."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login