Obama to sign VA reform bill Thursday

President Obama will sign the $16.3 billion bill to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs during a visit to Fort Belvoir in Virginia on Thursday, his administration said Monday.

"This new legislation, that passed Congress with strong bipartisan support, will put in place reforms and needed additional resources to meet the high standard of service that our veterans have earned," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

ADVERTISEMENT
At the event, Obama will discuss "the work that has been done and the work left to do" toward addressing some of the systematic failures within the department that resulted lengthy healthcare wait times and even veteran deaths, Earnest said.

The bill allows veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or who have to wait more than 30 days for a medical appointment to seek outside medical care.

An internal White House report released earlier this summer found that the VA needed to take "significant further action" to address "systematic problems" within the department. The report found a "corrosive culture" that is "inherent" to the agency and exacerbated by poor management, and detailed the use of "cumbersome and outdated" technology that complicated the scheduling of patient care.

Separately, the White House said it was "pleased" that VA Secretary Bob McDonald had been confirmed unanimously last week. Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned earlier this year amid revelations about the department's mismanagement.

"We all look forward to him bringing his expertise, pragmatism and integrity to the VA," Earnest said. "No veteran should have to wait to receive the benefits they have earned, and in recent months, the VA has taken aggressive steps to address the systemic issues found in the VA’s healthcare system."