Military Connection: Time Waning for VA Reform Bill: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

President Obama Delivers State Of The Union Address At U.S. Capitol

Back in May, there was a large outcry from lawmakers calling for VA reform. Now is the time to see how serious members of the House and the Senate are about improving benefits for military Veterans.

With just a few weeks before Congress goes on August break,  Veterans and Veteran advocates will be watching to see if law makers can find a way to put their party agendas aside, and reach an agreement to truly improve Veteran affairs. Many Veterans have concerns that politicians are merely using the long-standing issue as a political football.

For years, VA healthcare has been notorious for long wait times and in the eyes of many Veterans, the system was improving. The zeal with which law makers called for reform, and for former VA secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation, were surprising, if not disquieting, to many Veterans. But even Veterans who weren’t complaining about the system before May of this year would still welcome improvements.

But what many want to see from their elected officials is that the needs of our nation’s Veterans are put first, and won’t take a backseat to any individual’s or party’s ambitions.

A bill is expected to pass that would drastically reduce wait times for Veterans enrolled in the VA health system, and also make it easier to fire VA employees who hinder or abuse the system. Bills have already run through Congress to allow service members whose wait times have exceeded or will exceed a reasonable waiting time to receive treatment outside the VA system. Additionally, Veterans who live more than 40 miles from the closest VA medical facility can be treated at private facilities and still be covered by their VA medical benefits.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Senate’s proposed bill would cost an estimated $50 billion, and that the House’s proposed bill would cost an estimated $44 billion. Both bills passed their respective chambers with overwhelming votes in favor. Now debates about where to cut down on these proposals in order to make them more feasible is where lawmakers could get hung up.

Hopefully, for the sake of our Veterans,  our elected leaders can come up with an effective solution and agree to pass it into law.

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Military Connection: Time Waning for VA Reform Bill: By Debbie Gregory