Washington, DC – Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch supported compromise legislation today that would end lengthy waits for veterans seeking medical care by hiring new staff and expanding veterans’ access to private medical care. The legislation, co-sponsored by both Crapo and Risch, also improves the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) accountability by allowing VA leadership to more easily fire underperforming employees. The U.S. Senate passed the bill by a 93—3 vote.
Congress has sought to improve wait times for veterans seeking care; however, recent reports of false appointment records and wait time cover-ups in Phoenix and other cities demonstrate that past reform efforts were not sufficient.
“When called upon to serve, our nation’s veterans bravely did so without hesitation or delay,” said Crapo. “In return, they should not be forced to wait inordinate amounts of time for medical treatment. In addition to establishing more permanent fixes to begin addressing the widespread failures within the agency, this measure is particularly beneficial to rural Idahoans, allowing veterans living more than 40 miles away from a VA facility to seek health services outside of the system.”
“America has a commitment to ensure our veterans have fair and equal access to the healthcare and benefits they have earned and justly deserve,” said Risch. “This legislation will provide veterans the choices and flexibility needed to guarantee that they receive the care they need, when they need it. It will also give the VA secretary the necessary authority to discipline or fire employees based on performance. We must never allow the VA to repeat the mismanagement that led to their failure to meet veterans’ needs.”
The legislation was introduced by Senators Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) and John McCain (R-Arizona).
S.2450, the Veteran’s Access to Care Through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014, does the following:
- Allows veterans to seek private treatment if faced with long wait times at VA facilities;
- Expands the VA secretary’s ability to terminate or demote employees for poor performance;
- Allows for the hiring of additional doctors and nurses;
- Establishes two independent commissions to review and monitor veterans’ access to care and VA construction projects;
- Extends counseling and treatment to service members who suffered sexual trauma while serving on inactive duty training;
- Requires VA to report on prevalence of domestic violence in the veteran population