Tentative Agreement Reached With Oklahoma Lawmaker Stalling Veterans' Health Bill

Congressional Quarterly: "Senate Democratic leaders reached a tentative agreement with Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on Tuesday night that averted the necessity of filing cloture on a veterans’ health care omnibus measure and could lead to passage of the bill early next week. ... On Monday, Coburn said he objected to the bill because its five-year, $3.7 billion cost was not offset" (Oliveri, 11/10).

CQ Politics: "The wide-ranging Senate bill focuses on caregivers of veterans injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It would provide caregivers with health care, counseling, support and a stipend. The legislation would also expand services in rural areas and ensure that veterans who are catastrophically disabled or who need emergency care in the community are not charged for those services" (11/10).

Politico: reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Coburn "illogical" for blocking the veterans' legislation, "criticizing the Oklahoma Republican for supporting war funding while blocking health care funding for veterans. ... [Coburn] sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), saying that the Caregiver and Veterans Services Act of 2009 needs to be fully debated"  because of its five-year price tag (Sherman, 11/10).

FOXNews reports on Coburn's reluctance, noting: "A GOP senator under fire for blocking a veterans' health care bill that aims to expand mental care and offer home assistance to wounded veterans had a message for his critics: 'Show me the money.'" Meanwhile, "Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the bill is a 'lifeline' for many veterans. ... [Coburn] is the only senator objecting,' Durbin added" (11/10).

Capitol News Connection/WAMU reports that, in the House, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., said "We've raised the health care budget by more than 60% for example, which is unprecedented.' ... Filner's fellow committee member Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) also says Congress has generally done right by veterans when it comes to making money available. ... 'I think the key right now is to make sure that the implementation is going properly,' says Lamborn."  (Wynne Johnson, 11/11).

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports on the new mission of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki as he tries to deal with issues such as how to provide for veterans' need such as care giving for the injured. "For months, Mr. Shinseki has been crisscrossing the country as President Obama's pinstriped evangelist for veterans' care, raising concerns about a coming tide of post-traumatic stress cases, traumatic brain injuries and other physical and psychological scars of battle. .. In nine months, he has pushed the department to make it easier for veterans to receive compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder." He has also promised to attend to the disability compensation system. "Perhaps most ambitious is his goal of getting 131,000 homeless veterans off the street in six years" (Dao and Shanker, 11/10).

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