KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Democrats, House Republicans Spar Over VA Health System Fixes

In the meantime, younger veterans groups call for swift action and new priorities in the revamping of the agency, and Americans' confidence in the VA plummets, according to a new poll.

The Associated Press: Reid Vows Quick Senate Action On VA Health Bill
A refashioned bill to address problems plaguing the Veterans Affairs Department should be approved by the Senate as soon as possible, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would give the VA authority to immediately remove senior executives based on poor job performance while preventing "wholesale political firings" that Sanders said could be allowed under a similar bill approved by the House (Daly, 6/2).

Politico: Harry Reid: GOP 'Double-Speak' On Veterans
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Republicans of prioritizing the wealthy over the health of military veterans, arguing that "every senator" should support Democrats' plan to boost medical care access for veterans, no matter the price tag. Reid on Monday slammed Republicans for rejecting a veterans bill written by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in February. Reid accused the GOP of "double-speak" by criticizing the Veterans Affairs Department but denying the agency the funding it needs. He bashed Republicans for spending billions on Iraq paid for by "the taxpayers' of America’s credit card" while failing to invest in care for those returning from overseas conflicts (Everett, 6/2).

The Washington Post: With Shinseki Out, What's Congress Going To Do About The VA? 
With [VA Secretary Eric] Shinseki's sudden departure, it's likely that Congress will take weeks, if not months, to sort out the situation. The debate will break down along familiar lines -- Democrats and Republicans agree in principle that something must be done, but the House and the Senate can't agree on how to do it. Senate Democrats are pushing to pass a comprehensive bill with several changes, while House Republicans are touting nine veterans-related measures that they've passed in recent months and seen ignored by the Senate. Meanwhile, the issue of veterans' care is fast becoming fodder on the campaign trail, with Democratic and GOP political operations already targeting incumbents and challengers for ignoring the VA scandal or voting against VA budget increases (O’Keefe, 6/2).

Los Angeles Times: Veterans Group Pushes For 'Marshall Plan' To Address VA Member Issues
As the Senate prepares to take up reform legislation growing out of the VA health care scandal, a group representing Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans called Monday for a "Marshall Plan" for veterans and for the president to appoint a post-9/11 veteran or someone who understands the younger generations of veterans as the next secretary of Veterans Affairs. The group also called for the Senate to swiftly pass legislation that would expand the VA secretary's authority to fire or demote senior staff for poor performance and for Congress to increase funding for VA health care and approve a bill designed to combat suicides among veterans (Simon, 6/2).

McClatchy: Iraq-Afghanistan Vets Demand More Than Just A New VA Chief
Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan came to Washington on Monday to urge sweeping reforms of the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs and to push priorities for the massive agency’s next chief executive. They said President Barack Obama and Congress must do more than name and confirm a replacement for Eric Shinseki, the retired four-star general who resigned last week following reports of treatment delays and other problems at VA hospitals across the country. "What we need is a Marshall Plan for veterans," Paul Rieckhoff, head of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told reporters at an outdoor briefing near the U.S. Capitol. "This is a defining moment in American history" (Rosen, 6/2).

USA Today: Poll: Confidence In Veterans' Care Plummets To New Low
Americans' confidence in the medical care provided for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has plummeted to new lows in the wake of the VA scandal, a USA TODAY Poll finds. Most people see the problem as widespread and systemic. Just one in five rate the job the government does in providing veterans with medical care as excellent or good, about half the percentage who said that in a Pew Research Center survey in 2011. Then, half rated the care as "only fair" or poor; now seven in 10 do (Page, 6/2).

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