Four Republican Senators have introduced an alternative bill to a Democratic plan to offer some vets the ability to see doctors outside of the VA system. The Republican plan is far more expansive and gives vets more options — especially if they live a great distance from a VA facility.
McCain and the other GOP senators said their bill would make it easier for veterans to get care. It would direct all 150 VA hospitals to publish on their websites the current wait time for an appointment and require the VA to establish a public database of patient safety, quality of care and outcomes at each hospital.
Veterans who can’t get a VA appointment within 30 days or who live at least 40 miles from a VA clinic or hospital could go to any doctor who participates in Medicare or the military’s TRICARE program. The bill is co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Richard Burr of North Carolina. Burr is the senior Republican on the veterans panel.
“I’ve always believed that veterans could choose and should choose” their doctors, McCain said. He added that he first proposed private care for veterans during his 2008 presidential bid. “Give these veterans a choice card so they can present it to the health care provider,” he said Tuesday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, proposed legislation this week that would allow veterans who can’t get timely appointments with VA doctors to go to community health centers, military hospitals or private doctors. The bill also would authorize the VA to lease 27 new health facilities in 18 states and give the VA secretary authority to remove senior executives within 30 days of being fired for poor job performance, eliminating lengthy appeals.
The House passed a similar bill last month, but Sanders said he worried that version would allow “wholesale political firings” and even dismissal of whistleblowers.
With both parties in both the Senate and the House in agreement that veterans must be given the option of some kind of private care, it seems likely that this welcome change to VA rules is coming soon. The GOP plan appears more expansive and takes into account time and distance, as well as offering our veterans vital information on the VA websites pertaining to wait times and quality of care.
You want to say it’s about time something was done about this. But then you remember getting the Leviathan to change its ways is akin to pulling hen’s teeth. Only the white-hot pressure of public indignation over the treatment of our veterans could cause these basic, common sense changes at the VA.
You wish it would be easier.