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
Jordain Carney
Add to Briefcase
Jordain Carney
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 »
SEEKS COMPENSATORY DAMAGES
DNC Files Sweeping Lawsuit Over 2016 Election
41 minutes ago
WHY WE CARE

"The Democratic National Committee filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit Friday against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and the WikiLeaks organization alleging a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump. The complaint, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, alleges that top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump by hacking the computer networks of the Democratic Party and disseminating stolen material found there." The DNC is seeking "millions of dollars in compensation to offset damage it claims the party suffered from the hacks," and is arguing the cyberattack" undermined its ability to communicate with voters, collect donations and operate effectively as its employees faced personal harassment and, in some cases, death threats."

Source:
BIGGEST FINE OF TRUMP ERA
Wells-Fargo Fined $1 Billion For Defrauding Customers
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have fined Wells Fargo $1 billion dollars for convincing customers to buy insurance they did not need, and could not afford. "In October, the bank revealed that some mortgage borrowers were inappropriately charged for missing a deadline to lock in promised interest rates, even though the delays were Wells Fargo's fault." The bank has also apologized for . "charging as many as 570,000 clients for car insurance they didn't need," and found that about 20,000 of those customers "may have defaulted on their car loans and had their vehicles repossessed in part because of those unnecessary insurance costs."

Source:
ON UNOFFICIAL MARIJUANA HOLIDAY, 4/20
Schumer To Introduce Bill Legalizing Marijuana
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., plans to introduce legislation on Friday to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level, adding a high-profile advocate in the effort to decriminalize, legalize and normalize marijuana use in America." The bill would "remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances," establish funding sources for businesses and research, and establish regulations akin to those for tobacco and alcohol. "'If smoking marijuana doesn't hurt anybody else, why shouldn't we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?' Schumer told HBO's Vice News in a Thursday interview previewing his bill."

Source:
LEVERAGE FOR SPECIAL COUNSEL PROTECTION
Democrats Consider Holding Up Pompeo Nomination
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee are considering "refusing to vote to discharge" President Trump's nominee for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, in order pressure Sen. McConnell to take up a "sense-of-the-Senate resolution" that Special Counsel Mueller should be allowed to continue his investigation. If the Democratic Senators move forward with the plan, Republicans say McConnell "could simply trigger the so-called nuclear option" by declaring the move out-of-order, and bring Pompeo's nomination to the floor through a majority vote. The move is politically risky, as it would likely "heighten partisan tensions and play into President Trump’s arguments that Democrats are actively obstructing him."

Source:
“WALK-INS” STARTED ON MONDAY
Arizona Teachers Vote For Walk-Outs
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS
×
×

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