Comparing the House and Senate VA bills

The House on Tuesday passed a bill aimed at preventing future scheduling scandals at the Department of Veterans Affairs and addressing treatment delays at VA hospitals.

The measure, sponsored by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), is similar to bipartisan legislation that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced this week.

However, the two bills have some differences. Let’s take a look at how they compare.


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Similarities

Among the matching provisions, both bills would allow veterans to seek care at non-VA medical centers if they live more than 40 miles from a VA clinic or if they have experienced long waits for an appointment.

Both measures would also require an independent performance assessment for the Veterans Health Administration, which runs VA hospitals.

The  Senate bill would give the VA secretary greater authority to fire senior executives over performance problems, while Miller’s bill would not. But Miller proposed a VA firing bill last month that passed the House with overwhelming support, so he had no reason to include such a measure in the newer legislation. We’ll count this as a technical similarity.

Differences

Miller’s bill would ban bonuses for all VA employees from 2014 through 2016, while the Senate proposal would not. The VA has already suspended performance awards for its senior executives this year.

The Senate bill includes several provisions not offered in the House measure to help the VHA keep up with demand. It would allow the agency to lease 26 new facilities for health care and dedicate $500 million toward hiring new VA medical staff.

The Senate measure would also guarantee in-state tuition for all veterans at public colleges and universities, in addition to expanding access to care for military sexual-assault victims. The Miller plan does not include such provisions.

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Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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