Lawmakers Announce $17 Billion Deal To Overhaul VA Health Care

The overhaul makes it easier for veterans waiting a long time to see a VA doctor to get care from a private doctor's office. It also includes money to hire new doctors and lease new clinic space. Negotiators are confident of the bill's smooth passage through Congress.

NPR: After 5 Weeks Of Haggling, Congress Inks Bipartisan VA Bill
Congress has reached a bipartisan deal to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, after nearly two months of tense negotiations (Lawrence, 7/28).

The New York Times: Deal Allots $17 Billion For Overhaul of V.A. Health Care System
House and Senate negotiators announced an agreement Monday on legislation that would allocate about $17 billion to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs’ sprawling and beleaguered health care system. But the deal does not give the department everything that officials there have said is needed to fix its problems (Schleifer and Oppel Jr., 7/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers Unveil $17 Billion Fix For Veterans Affairs
The agreement still needs the green light from a committee of House and Senate lawmakers, after which it will need to be approved by both chambers before being sent to the White House for the president's signature. About $12 billion of the total is considered emergency funding, which doesn't need to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget -- a decision that could still bring objections from more conservative Republicans. Mr. Miller said he was optimistic Congress would act this week to pass the bill (Kesling and Crittenden, 7/28).

The Washington Post: Negotiators Predict Easy Passage Of Bill To Overhaul Department Of Veterans Affairs
A sweeping proposal to revamp the Department of Veterans Affairs and the nation’s medical care for military veterans should have enough support to pass the House and Senate this week before lawmakers leave town for a summer recess, lead negotiators said Monday. The assurances provided a hopeful start to a week in which congressional leaders are expected to resolve several lingering issues before lawmakers head home for their five-week summer break. In addition to approving changes to veterans’ medical care, negotiators are working on deals to continue federal funding for the nation’s major road projects and whether to grant President Obama’s request for billions of dollars to deal with the historic influx of illegal immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border (O’Keefe, 7/28).

The Associated Press: Deal To Improve Veterans’ Health Care Costs $17B
The bill includes $10 billion in emergency spending to make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care; $5 billion to hire doctors, nurses and other medical staff; and about $1.5 billion to lease 27 new clinics across the country, lawmakers said. The bill also would expand a scholarship program for veterans, allow all veterans to qualify for in-state college tuition and grant the VA secretary authority to immediately fire senior executives, while providing employees with streamlined appeal rights (7/28).

Politico: How The VA Deal Came Together
Top negotiators on a deal to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs turned to an unusual strategy that helped them arrive at Monday’s agreement: knock-down, drag-out arguing. Just last week, talks appeared on the verge of collapse as the leaders of a conference committee -- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) -- publicly slugged it out over differences on how to pay for the bill. Miller said Sanders was hurling “grenades” at Republicans rather than negotiating while Sanders called the GOP’s behavior “sad” (French and Everett, 7/28).

USA Today: Bipartisan Deal Would Add Billions For Veterans’ Care 
Key members of Congress have reached a bipartisan deal to use $10 billion in emergency money to allow veterans to seek private care if they face long wait lines at facilities run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The deal opens the door for Congress to pass a bill this week before departing for a month-long recess (Kennedy, 7/28).

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