VA reform bill likely to pass both houses this week

A bill that would reform the VA and fund more doctors and services for vets while allowing some patients to utilize private practice physicians appears headed for passage this week in both the House and the Senate.

The Hill:

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) predicted a majority of his conference will support the bill when it comes up for a vote on Wednesday.

His Senate counterpart, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the upper chamber could vote on the legislation as soon as Wednesday but that Thursday was more likely.

Heritage Action put out a statement criticizing the bill, but a spokesman said it was unclear if the group would include the vote on its legislative scorecard. The Club for Growth did not put out a statement on the bill.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said he would vote no.

“I’m not going to support it,” the deficit hawk told The Hill. He said the problem isn’t the money, but that VA physicians see about half the number of patients on a daily basis as those in private practice.

“It’s about utilization of resources and management,” he said.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), one of three GOP lawmakers who voted against the VA overhaul when it came up in the Senate last month, said he “can’t imagine the bill’s been constructed in such a way that I can support it.”

He said he was worried a provision in the bill that allows veterans the choice of getting private care in certain situations, which is supposed to sunset after three years, would instead “go on forever.”

That would mean a “massive amount of money down the road,” he said.

Still, many lawmakers are likely to be reluctant to oppose any bill granting healthcare to veterans.

The bill includes $10 billion to allow veterans to get private care and another $5 billion for the department to hire additional medical staff.

Corker and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said the bill should be scored by the Congressional Budget Office before Senators vote.

“It’s bad policy for this Congress to jam bills through with serious budget problems without opportunity for the member to fully understand what’s at stake,” Sessions said.

But he declined to say whether he would vote against the bill on the Senate floor.

Other Republicans who have criticized the VA healthcare system in the past indicated they would support the measure.

“There are some things I probably don’t like, but what I like about is it will give veterans an option,” said Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).

Meanwhile, Brietbart is reporting that VA bonuses, stripped by Congress last month, have been put back:

A House-Senate agreement on how to reform the broken Department of Veterans Affairs will let the VA hand out up to $360 million in bonuses to its employees each year, even though the House voted just weeks ago to strip all VA bonuses through 2016.

The compromise bill announced Monday by the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees says VA bonuses will be capped at $360 million annually for the next ten years. But that cap is just 10 percent below the $400 million in bonuses the VA has distributed in recent fiscal years, and will allow up to $3.6 billion in bonuses to be awarded over the next decade.

In each of fiscal years 2015 through 2024, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall ensure that the aggregate amount of awards and bonuses paid by the Secretary in a fiscal year… does not exceed $360,000,000,” the bill says.

A description of the bill adds that members expect the VA to implement this cap in a way that does not “disproportionately impact lower-wage employees,” although the legislation itself does not include any restriction on how to award the money.

The $360 million cap on bonuses is a far cry from the House’s unanimous vote in June to eliminate all VA bonuses, and use the $400 million savings to provide expanded health care options for veterans.

Neckuva job you VA boys and girls are doing. Keep it up.
 
Undeserved bonuses aside, the bill isn't too bad. It addresses the big issues, including expanding access to services and hiring more doctors. And while some may be nervous about government paying for visits to private doctors becoming permanent, as long as Congress doesn't try to cut the appropriation to hire more physicians, that provision should be phased out on schedule.
 
The bill contains nothing about punishing those who covered up the shameful delay in treating veterans. It's a safe bet that few of them - if any - will lose their jobs because of it. Congress will have to tackle that issue separately.
 

A bill that would reform the VA and fund more doctors and services for vets while allowing some patients to utilize private practice physicians appears headed for passage this week in both the House and the Senate.

The Hill:

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) predicted a majority of his conference will support the bill when it comes up for a vote on Wednesday.

His Senate counterpart, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the upper chamber could vote on the legislation as soon as Wednesday but that Thursday was more likely.

Heritage Action put out a statement criticizing the bill, but a spokesman said it was unclear if the group would include the vote on its legislative scorecard. The Club for Growth did not put out a statement on the bill.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said he would vote no.

“I’m not going to support it,” the deficit hawk told The Hill. He said the problem isn’t the money, but that VA physicians see about half the number of patients on a daily basis as those in private practice.

“It’s about utilization of resources and management,” he said.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), one of three GOP lawmakers who voted against the VA overhaul when it came up in the Senate last month, said he “can’t imagine the bill’s been constructed in such a way that I can support it.”

He said he was worried a provision in the bill that allows veterans the choice of getting private care in certain situations, which is supposed to sunset after three years, would instead “go on forever.”

That would mean a “massive amount of money down the road,” he said.

Still, many lawmakers are likely to be reluctant to oppose any bill granting healthcare to veterans.

The bill includes $10 billion to allow veterans to get private care and another $5 billion for the department to hire additional medical staff.

Corker and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said the bill should be scored by the Congressional Budget Office before Senators vote.

“It’s bad policy for this Congress to jam bills through with serious budget problems without opportunity for the member to fully understand what’s at stake,” Sessions said.

But he declined to say whether he would vote against the bill on the Senate floor.

Other Republicans who have criticized the VA healthcare system in the past indicated they would support the measure.

“There are some things I probably don’t like, but what I like about is it will give veterans an option,” said Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).

Meanwhile, Brietbart is reporting that VA bonuses, stripped by Congress last month, have been put back:

A House-Senate agreement on how to reform the broken Department of Veterans Affairs will let the VA hand out up to $360 million in bonuses to its employees each year, even though the House voted just weeks ago to strip all VA bonuses through 2016.

The compromise bill announced Monday by the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees says VA bonuses will be capped at $360 million annually for the next ten years. But that cap is just 10 percent below the $400 million in bonuses the VA has distributed in recent fiscal years, and will allow up to $3.6 billion in bonuses to be awarded over the next decade.

In each of fiscal years 2015 through 2024, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall ensure that the aggregate amount of awards and bonuses paid by the Secretary in a fiscal year… does not exceed $360,000,000,” the bill says.

A description of the bill adds that members expect the VA to implement this cap in a way that does not “disproportionately impact lower-wage employees,” although the legislation itself does not include any restriction on how to award the money.

The $360 million cap on bonuses is a far cry from the House’s unanimous vote in June to eliminate all VA bonuses, and use the $400 million savings to provide expanded health care options for veterans.

Neckuva job you VA boys and girls are doing. Keep it up.
 
Undeserved bonuses aside, the bill isn't too bad. It addresses the big issues, including expanding access to services and hiring more doctors. And while some may be nervous about government paying for visits to private doctors becoming permanent, as long as Congress doesn't try to cut the appropriation to hire more physicians, that provision should be phased out on schedule.
 
The bill contains nothing about punishing those who covered up the shameful delay in treating veterans. It's a safe bet that few of them - if any - will lose their jobs because of it. Congress will have to tackle that issue separately.
 

RECENT VIDEOS