WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today voted in favor of a bipartisan veterans bill to establish 27 new Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities, hire more doctors and nurses to care for veterans, and provide veterans with flexibility to receive health care outside the VA system. The legislation will also provide the new VA Secretary, Robert McDonald, with the authority to fire employees for incompetence.
“This legislation puts veterans first,” Wicker said. “Although it will not change the culture of the VA overnight, Congress has provided a wide array of new tools to give Secretary McDonald what he needs to help restore faith in the system. For example, many Mississippi veterans will benefit from the provision that allows them to bypass long wait times and a broken claims process to receive care from non-VA facilities without needless delays. Some veterans, who live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility, would also be able to take advantage of this opportunity.”
“In an era of intense partisanship, I am pleased Congress was able to come together to provide a responsible and bipartisan solution to the problems facing too many of our nation’s heroes,” Wicker added.
The measure now awaits the President’s signature to be enacted into law.
Highlights of the “Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014,” H.R. 3230, include:
- Providing veterans, who are enrolled in the VA health-care system, the opportunity to seek non-VA care if they were unable to secure an appointment at a VA medical facility within 30 days or reside more than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility;
- Authorizing the lease of 27 major medical facility leases in 18 states;
- Providing $5 billion to hire additional physicians and other medical staff;
- Authorizing the VA to fire or demote employees for poor performance or misconduct; and
- Cutting funding for bonuses by $40 million each year through FY 2024.
The bill costs $17 billion over a 10-year period, with 10-year offsets totaling roughly $5 billion, making it less expensive than previous VA reform packages passed by the House and Senate.