KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Sanders Details Plan To Overhaul Veterans Health Care

On Sunday, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., unveiled legislation, called the Restoring Veterans’ Trust Act, which is designed to smooth out the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs by -- among other changes --  making it easier for veterans to see outside providers if care isn’t available within 30 days. 

USA Today: Senator Unveils Proposal To Revamp VA Health Care
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders unveiled a broad proposal Sunday to revamp health care for 6.5 million veterans as the department faces an expanding investigation into the way care is provided at VA medical facilities. "The truth is that when people get into the VA, the quality of care is good. The problem that we have to address is access to the system and waiting lines," Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, said on CBS's Face the Nation. ... The proposal would authorize the VA to lease 27 new health facilities across 18 states and Puerto Rico. It includes additional funding to hire health care providers (Davis, 6/1).

The Washington Post: Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Introduces Proposal To Overhaul VA
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a far-reaching proposal Sunday to overhaul health care for the nation’s veterans that would make it easier for the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs to hire and fire employees, lease new space for clinics and hospitals, and send veterans to outside providers if care isn’t available within 30 days. Sanders’s bill, the Restoring Veterans’ Trust Act, would give the VA secretary the authority to remove senior officials based on poor job performance, grant VA expedited hiring authority for nurses and doctors, authorize the department to lease 27 new facilities in 18 states and Puerto Rico, mandate a software upgrade for the department’s patient scheduling system by March 2016 and expand opportunities for eligible veterans to seek outside care if VA facilities are unavailable (O’Keefe, 6/1).

The Associated Press:  Senate To Consider New VA Bill After Scandal
Details of a refashioned bill to address the problems plaguing the federally run veterans' health care system were released Sunday by its sponsor, the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, said the bill would be introduced this week. The bill includes several new provisions aimed at fixing the long delays for veterans' care. The long-simmering issue erupted into a scandal in April and led to last week's resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, after 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 official waiting list (Cappiello, 6/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Senate To Address Veterans’ Short-Term Health-Care Needs 
[Sanders] said the system was “gamed” in many parts of the country where the VA lacked the doctors or other staff to ensure the delivery of timely patient care. ... Resolving longer-term problems will require ensuring veterans have primary-care physicians and other staff they need to get timely quality care, said Mr. Sanders, who carefully avoided blaming Mr. Shinseki and said–when asked whether he or Congress is responsible–that “everybody” can bear some responsibility for the problems (Trottman, 6/1).

Politico: VA Moves Bernie Sanders From Stage Left To Center Stage
He’s a combative, self-described “democratic socialist” more prone to hand-to-hand combat with Republicans than cutting deals with them. But Bernie Sanders now is tasked with leading Democrats through a sensitive political dilemma that’s putting their party on the defensive. With Eric Shinseki out at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the focus now shifts to Capitol Hill, placing the two-term Vermont independent and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman at the center of the growing VA health care controversy. Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, is assembling a legislative package to help address the issue in the hopes that he can consolidate support within the veterans community and assuage concerns of vulnerable Democrats (Raju and Everett, 6/1).

In related news on Capitol Hill -

Fox News: Hill Leaders Vow Shinseki’s Resignation Won't Dim Spotlight On Veterans Affairs' Woes
Top Capitol Hill lawmakers said Sunday that the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will not take the spotlight off the agency’s widespread patient-care problems and suggested a criminal probe into the situation. Florida GOP Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, told “Fox News Sunday” the intensity in Congress will not wane. “I can promise you that,” he said. “The American people are so disgusted it's not going to fade out” (6/2).

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