This week, the House will vote on the Veterans’ Access to Care Through Choice, Accountability, & Transparency Act, a bipartisan, bicameral agreement that begins to address the problems at the Veterans Administration.  Here’s a look at what’s in the bill, and how it will help ensure our nation’s heroes receive the care they need and the benefits they have earned:

  • ACCESS:  Following a CNN report that 40 veterans died awaiting care at a Phoenix VA facility, stories of secret waiting lists across the country emerged, exposing a widespread problem that is putting veterans’ lives at risk.  The legislation allows veterans to seek private care if they live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA facility, or are unable to get an appointment at a VA facility within 30 days.  It also extends two pilot programs to help veterans receive care closer to their homes, and to improve rehabilitation services for those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. 
  • ACCOUNTABILITY: In May, House Republicans passed the VA Management Accountability Act (H.R. 4031), legislation backed by numerous veterans groups that makes it easier to fire or demote senior VA managers who are not doing their jobs.  The bill includes reforms similar to H.R. 4031 to help bring real accountability to the VA, and to prevent senior managers from receiving bonuses during their removal process. 
  • INDEPENDENT REVIEW:  Whether it’s the secret waiting lists, the backlog, or the preventable deaths, it is imperative to get to the bottom of the problems at the VARepublicans have called on President Obama to outline a vision for systemic VA reform, but he has yet to do so.  The bill ensures that there will be an independent review of VA medical care, and it establishes a congressional commission to evaluate access to care.  These measures will help identify long-term reforms necessary to improve the quality and accessibility of care for our veterans.

“The veterans of this country deserve the best quality health care that they can get in a timely fashion, and that has not been the case as of late,” Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) said at a press conference announcing the bipartisan agreement yesterday.  This bill provides the first step toward ensuring more access and accountability, with less net spending than both the House and Senate-passed bills. 

But, as Speaker Boehner made clear today, “there’s an awful lot more work that needs to be done.”  The president owes veterans a long-term plan to resolve the problems at the VA and make certain that they never happen again, and House Republicans will continue pressing him to offer one.

Read more about the Veterans Access, Choice & Accountability Act here.