Reform Bills Passed For Veterans Affairs Scandal

By Al Macias
Published: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 5:34pm
Updated: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 5:39pm

House and Senate lawmakers met Tuesday to work out a compromise for the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs. The scandal broke this spring with reports that officials in Phoenix were falsifying records and delaying treatment for veterans.

The House and Senate have each passed reform bills and are now working on merging the two. More than two dozen senators and representatives attended Tuesday’s meeting. Both the House and Senate versions would allow veterans to seek health care outside the government's veteran system if they were unable to get a timely appointment with the VA.

That would address some of the issues raised in Phoenix. Arizona Senator John McCain said revelations about delayed care and falsified records continue.

"Today I believe or yesterday, we’ve learned of allegations again at the Phoenix VA hospital that records of dead veterans were altered to make the wait times look better," McCain said. "And frankly, Mr. Chairman and Senator Sanders, I don’t think that’s the last shoe to drop."

Senate co-chairman Bernie Sanders said the VA needs more doctors, nurses and mental health providers. Arizona Congresswoman Anne Kirkpatrick agreed. She said veterans in rural Arizona face challenges trying to get timely care from the VA.

"It only makes sense to give veterans a choice card that allows veterans to receive healthcare through Medicare providers and at federal healthcare facilities if they live too far away or have waited too long," Kirkpatrick said.

Both House and Senate versions would authorize the VA to sign leases for new facilities and would also crack down on incentive bonuses for administrators. Investigations have shown that many senior administrators received bonuses based on falsified records.