Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Leaders of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs (VA) committees overcame their differences to come up with a compromise VA reform bill over the weekend.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida) plan to unveil the bill on Monday after they agreed to “deal with both the short-term and long-term needs of the VA,” the senator’s spokesman, Michael Briggs, said.
In a joint statement, the lawmakers said the legislation aims to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.
Both previous proposals of Sanders and Miller allow veterans who live far from a VA facility to go to a private clinic but they have different ideas to pay the cost. For Sanders, part of the $35 billion fund for services of non-VA doctors will be offset elsewhere in the federal budget. Miller proposed $10 billion in emergency fund usable anytime in the next five years.
In the compromise bill, the cost of treating veterans in private clinics and hospitals will be covered by a $10 billion emergency fund that need not be offset in the federal budget.
Other provisions of the compromise VA bill are allowing service members on the GI bill (and their spouses) to get in-state tuition at whichever public college/university they attend as well as funding 27 additional leases for VA facilities around the country — mostly community clinics.
The bill also gives VA managers more authority to fire people.
Both chambers of Congress aim to pass the bill before the end of the week and the lawmakers’ August recess.