Shaheen introduces VA fix bill

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced a bill Tuesday that aims to address mismanagement within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The problems we’ve seen at VA hospitals across the country are unacceptable,” Shaheen said. “We need to do everything we can to make sure that veterans are getting timely access to the quality medical care they’ve earned.”

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Shaheen’s bill, the Veterans Access to Care Accountability Act, includes provisions to reduce delayed healthcare for veterans, strengthen department accountability and hold individual VA officials responsible, including through withholding bonuses from VA officials involved in mismanagement.

“If there are problems, we need to know immediately, and those responsible need to be held accountable,” Shaheen said. “This bill will go a long way toward improving oversight of the VA and ultimately providing our veterans with the care they deserve.”

The bill would also require the Government Accountability Office to randomly audit VA medical facilities and would require veterans be contacted within 48 hours and allow scheduled appointments with an outside medical facility within one week if a report determines veterans have been delayed access to care.

Shaheen, who is up for reelection in November, introduced the bill the same day a group of Republicans introduced legislation that would grant veterans the flexibility to seek treatment at private healthcare providers.

And Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is expected to introduce his own plan this week, which will include accountability measures and increase VA funding to hire more doctors and nurses. The White House is reportedly working with Sanders on the measure. 

Shaheen's bill could be a middle ground.

Lawmakers have rushed to come up with legislative solutions to address the backlog of medical claims within the VA system since the Office of Inspectors General reported last week that wait times at some facilities exceed 100 days.

The problems at the VA led Eric Shinseki to resign last Friday as head of the department.