After many weeks of critical news about the Veterans Administration and the treatment of those who’ve worn our nation’s uniform, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation on Tuesday designed to make key changes.
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says the Veterans Care Act aims to fix some of the problems that have long ailed the VA, including wait times that sometimes extend several months.
“I’m delighted that we were able to put partisanship aside and pass the so-called Sanders-McCain bill,” Harkin says. “I believe there’s good provisions in it. It’s a compromise, obviously, but I hope it will bring new focus to addressing the current shortage of primary care doctors.”
One important element of the bill would be to give veterans more portability in their health care, eliminating what Harkin calls “unacceptable wait times” in VA hospitals.
Harkin says, “In the bill, it allows veterans who live a certain distance from VA facilities to go ahead and seek their primary care at community health centers or other private clinics or hospitals.”
Dozens of VA facilities nationwide are under scrutiny for long wait times and “cooking the books” to hide scheduling problems. Reports say perhaps 40 veterans died while waiting for care at a single VA facility in Arizona.
Harkin calls the legislation a “critically-needed measure to address the problems plaguing the VA system.”
“I think this is a much-needed shot in the arm for the Veterans Administration,” Harkin says. “I hope the House clears it very rapidly and gets it to the president as soon as possible.”
The measure passed the Senate on a vote of 93-to-3.