Congressman Charlie Dent (PA-15) was pleased that the House voted in a hugely bipartisan manner, 420 to 5, today to address the systemic problem of veterans’ health care services through the Veterans Administration.
“This issue needed to be addressed,” said Dent. “It is encouraging that the House and Senate were able to come together in a bipartisan manner to take important steps to make things better for veterans across the country.”
The House approved the Conference Report for H.R. 3230, The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. This reform package, agreed to in a bipartisan manner in both the House and Senate, makes critical necessary reforms to the Veterans Administration.
These reforms include:
• allowing veterans to receive care if they can’t secure an appointment at a VA medical facility in 30 days or if they reside more than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility;
• providing $10 billion for the newly-established “Veterans Choice Fund” to cover the costs of this increased access to non-VA care;
• making available $5 billion to the VA to increase access to care through the hiring of physicians and other medical staff and by making physical fixes to VA facilities;
• authorizing 27 major medical facility leases in 18 states and Puerto Rico;
• authorizing the VA to fire or demote Senior Executive Service (SES) employees and Title 38 SES equivalent employees for poor performance or misconduct;
• reducing funding for bonuses available to VA employees by $40 million each year through FY 2024.
The bill also contains helpful provisions for veterans seeking to use the G.I. Bill to further their educations. It requires public colleges to provide in-state tuition to veterans and eligible dependents and provides full Post 9/11 G.I. Bill benefits to spouses of servicemembers who died in the line of duty after 9/11 (Sgt. Fry Scholarship Program).
“It is appalling that the VA allowed veterans to slip through the cracks. This can never happen again. The commonsense reforms contained in this legislation are a major step forward in caring for our veterans and protecting them from that sort of abuse,” said Dent.
Dent touted the provision that allows veterans to seek care at other medical facilities if they don’t live within 40 miles of a VA facility. “This reform is simply overdue,” he said. “I have veterans in their 70’s and 80’s being told they have to drive from Allentown to Wilke-Barre to receive care.”
Dent has long been a proponent of allowing veterans to access non-VA care. “One of the greatest things that this country has ever done for veterans was to provide for their education through the G.I. Bill. We didn’t construct new universities solely for veterans and tell them they could only be educated at a VA-run school. To run the VA health system like we are and ignore the realities and advantages of modern, community-based health care is ridiculous. I’m glad we’re taking a step into 21st Century health care for veterans with this legislation,” concluded Dent.
The Senate is expected to adopt the Conference Report. It will then be sent to the President for his signature by the end of the week.
Contact: Shawn Millan (610) 770-3490