Key Republican and Democratic negotiators said Sunday they had made “significant progress” on legislation to reform the troubled Department of Veterans’ Affairs and scheduled a news conference for Monday to make an announcement.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairmen, said in a joint statement that their legislation would “make the VA more accountable and recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.”
With Congress nearing a long recess, any bill faces stiff odds. It would have to pass through both committees, the full House and Senate and probably a conference committee — all before Friday and all in an atmosphere of long-standing partisan gridlock.
The discussions had reportedly broken down last week over where the money — between $10 billion and $25 billion — would come from and whether some “offset” would be required that would take money from some other program or be allocated as emergency funding.
Republicans have been reluctant to pump more cash into an agency that has received virtually everything it asked for in recent years but nonetheless found itself mired in problems, including a record-keeping scandal, a longstanding backlog of disability claims and extensive treatment delays nationwide. GOP lawmakers say they want assurances that any additional funding would be used effectively, the Post’s Josh Hicks reported.
According to the Associated Press, few details of the agreement were released, but the bill is expected to authorize billions in emergency spending to lease 27 new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care.
The House and Senate are set to adjourn at the end of the week until early September, and lawmakers from both parties have said completing a bill on veterans’ health care is a top priority.
The Senate is expected to vote this week to confirm former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary.