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Republicans offer alternative VA health care bill

McCain Rolls Out Plan for New VA Bill


By MATTHEW DALY

WASHINGTON (AP) - A bill proposed by four Senate Republicans would give veterans more flexibility to see a private doctor if they are forced to wait too long for an appointment at a Veterans Affairs hospital or clinic.

Arizona Sen. John McCain and three other GOP senators introduced the bill Tuesday, the latest response in Congress to a furor over patient delays and reports of falsified records at VA health facilities nationwide.

A federal investigation into the troubled Phoenix VA Health Care System found that about 1,700 veterans in need of care were "at risk of being lost or forgotten" after being kept off an electronic waiting list. The investigation also found broad and deep-seated problems throughout the sprawling health care system, which provides medical care to about 6.5 million veterans annually.

A document released Tuesday by Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, both Kansas Republicans, showed that at least 108 veterans waited more than 90 days for appointments with a primary care doctor at nine hospitals and 51 outpatient clinics in Kansas, Missouri and parts of four other states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Arkansas.

A bill being crafted by the Republican chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee would require the VA to offer outside care to veterans who cannot be seen within 30 days. And the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's chairman, an independent, has proposed a bill to pay for veterans' appointments at community health centers and military hospitals or with private doctors if they cannot get a timely appointment at a VA facility.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House panel, asked acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson on Tuesday to respond within a week to a month-old subpoena demanding documents related to an investigation of alleged falsified records and other problems that have surfaced in the past six weeks across the 1,700-facility VA health care system.

Miller said is frustrated by the "stonewalling" to his request by the department under former Secretary Eric Shinseki, who resigned under fire last Friday.

"Right now, Secretary Gibson has a chance to begin to repair the reputation of a department that has gained notoriety for its secrecy and duplicity with the public and indifference to the constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities of Congress," Miller said.

A career banker, the 61-year-old Gibson had served as deputy VA secretary since February. He came to the department after serving as president and chief executive of the USO, the nonprofit organization that provides programs, services and entertainment to U.S. troops and their families.

McCain and the other GOP senators said their bill would make it easier for veterans to get care. It would direct all 150 VA hospitals to publish on their websites the current wait time for an appointment and require the VA to establish a public database of patient safety, quality of care and outcomes at each hospital.

Veterans who can't get a VA appointment within 30 days or who live at least 40 miles from a VA clinic or hospital could go to any doctor who participates in Medicare or the military's TRICARE program. The bill is co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Richard Burr of North Carolina. Burr is the senior Republican on the veterans panel.

"I've always believed that veterans could choose and should choose" their doctors, McCain said. He added that he first proposed private care for veterans during his 2008 presidential bid. "Give these veterans a choice card so they can present it to the health care provider," he said Tuesday.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, proposed legislation this week that would allow veterans who can't get timely appointments with VA doctors to go to community health centers, military hospitals or private doctors. The bill also would authorize the VA to lease 27 new health facilities in 18 states and give the VA secretary authority to remove senior executives within 30 days of being fired for poor job performance, eliminating lengthy appeals.

The House passed a similar bill last month, but Sanders said he worried that version would allow "wholesale political firings" and even dismissal of whistleblowers.

Sanders and McCain are scheduled to meet privately Wednesday to try to reach agreement on legislative language related to veterans health.

___

Associated Press writer John Milburn in Topeka, Kansas, contributed to this report.

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oldhorsema June 03 2014 at 9:08 PM

Republicans would accomplish a whole lot more if they first get rid of that war mongering antique poltiician McCain

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14 replies
rschli7137 June 03 2014 at 9:29 PM

Wasn't this bandied around years ago? (using private sector doctors & hospitals). If memory serves me, the Republicans vowed to fight it because of the enormous cost.. It never came to a vote. What happened? Now it's OK? Yep, it's an election year.

Flag Reply +28 rate up
7 replies
hanlon1212 June 03 2014 at 11:21 PM

RepubliCON$ never put forth any alternatives to Obamacares .

I wouldn't trust RepubliCON$ with Veterans' care -- they'll try to P I R A T I ZE it.

RepubliCON$ fillibustered the $ 21 BILLION restoration to the VA .

RepubliCON$ tried to cut Veterans retirement pensions by $ 6.8 BILLION.

RepubliCON$ VOTED AGAINST THE :
==============================

homeless Veterans bill.
Veterans re-intergration bill.
veterans affairs bill.
disabled Veterans bill.
Tricare Health bill.
Veterans program
jobs bills for Veterans
hiring tax credit for Veterans
loans programs for Veterans .

" SUPPORT THE TROOPS " --- DON'T VOTE REPUBLICON !
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Flag Reply +21 rate up
12 replies
Rick June 03 2014 at 10:00 PM

Once again "Johnny Come Lately" McCain waits until the last minute to jump into the fight. If that idiot would spend his time preventing fires instead of trying to put them out he might get something done. As the Arizona Republic reported today the whistle here in Phoenix wrote to McCain months ago to report what was happening but he was ignored by McCain. McCain is the biggest loser in American politics.

Flag Reply +19 rate up
8 replies
hanlon1212 June 03 2014 at 11:12 PM

Ever hear they saying : " WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMAN ? "
This refers to Troops in battle , or Veterans having trouble with the Veterans Administration seeking assistance from their Congressman .

THIS IS STAANDARD PROCEEDURE & HAS BEEN FOR DECADES .
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Well , John ( the fake " war hero " ) McCain was a Congressman for the 40 Veterans who allegedly dired while awaiting care at the VA in Phoenix Arizona
and should've been the very FIRST person they would have contacted ( outside of the VA ) that they should have contacted , seeking help.

What has McCain been doing for the past year and a half , while those 40 Veterans needed help ???

McCain has been exploiting the deaths of the 4 Benghazi victims -- that republicons are now using to fundraise for the mid - term elc

Flag Reply +17 rate up
5 replies
suemacneil June 03 2014 at 11:01 PM

Well gee, since Bush, Chainey & a few others decided to take 14 billion out of the reserve cash for veteran's to use on their war, I guess they owe them something, right? Or could this be an alternative hand off to Ombamacare? Still trying to out do the other guy? It's a nice gesture, but there's just no dough. Unless the Bush administration paid it back.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
4 replies
caseyplease June 04 2014 at 12:06 AM

It's another fake fix, the only way to fix the problem is congress (small c) gets whatever health care plan they pass for vets.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
1 reply
Alan caseyplease June 04 2014 at 4:37 AM

Never gonna happen.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
qwerty.today June 03 2014 at 10:44 PM

Here is a phrase McCain might understand, we need more boots on the ground. Meaning we need more facilities and more qualified personnel to man those facilities, to provide the kind of care needed by those whom he put in harms way.
We need more hands on people and fewer paper pushers.
These need to be top notch facilities. And stop the bonuses for performance nonsense that accomplish nothing. Pay a good, fair salary. Bonuses, while nice, do nothing. Wall Street has proved how effective bonuses can be. CEOs fail and then they laugh all the way to the bank. The best facilities, with the proper staff, and no long wait times.
The vets have survived the battle on the battle front, and are losing the battle on the home front. No excuses. Take care of our own.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
5 replies
cabo79 June 03 2014 at 9:40 PM

VA medical benefits have been means tested since Bush. You have to be pretty poor to get them. That's why the VA can do this. Poor people are easy targets.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
8 replies
lllowry June 04 2014 at 12:22 AM

Oh great! We get to substitute one poorly run program for another! Is that what they mean when they say, "Thank you for your service!"

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
brenhatestwinkie lllowry June 04 2014 at 11:30 AM

they will hookup their buddies

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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