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Senate passes bill to let VA fire execs, revamp veteran care

Jun. 11, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments

The Senate has passed a bill allowing the Veterans Affairs Department secretary to fire senior executives and establishing new hiring authorities. The bill passed June 11, by a vote of 90-2.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a press release that the Restoring Veterans Trust Act of 2014 would help fix scheduling issues at the VA and provide accountability so the recent reported incidents of falsified wait lists would not happen again and that veterans would get the care they need.

“Our job is to make certain that every veteran in the country gets quality health care in a timely manner,” Sanders said. “At a time when 2 million more veterans have come into the VA in the last four years, we must ensure that there are enough doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to meet the needs of veterans in every facility in the country.”

What’s in the bill? Click for fact sheet .

Charges of improper care and falsified waiting lists have led to inspector general investigations across dozens of hospitals and the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. But the legislation will also help fix the underlying issues at the agency caused by the influx of veterans and the lack of funding by Congress, Sanders has said.

The VA would be given the authority to hire new doctors, nurses and other providers in an expedited manner to fill gaps in service and would receive additional funding to hire those employees as well as work on construction projects and leases to expand access to care.

The legislation would also:

» Allow the VA to enter into 26 major medical facility leases in 17 states and Puerto Rico to provide more expansive veterans coverage.

» Upgrade the VA scheduling software package. The bill would require the agency to commence the agile development of a new software scheduling package that could be fully deployed by March 31, 2016.

» Authorize a presidential commission to identify barriers to medical care at the VA and provide recommendations for enhancing coverage.

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