Reid will ‘quickly’ schedule VA vote

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would bring up a bipartisan VA fix as soon as the legislative language is worked out.

“I am happy to schedule a vote on it as quickly as possible,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday.

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Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced last week that they had come to agreement on a bill that aims to fix dysfunctions within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system by holding officials accountable and providing veterans with more choices. But Reid said the legislative language is still being finalized.

Sanders and McCain’s bill gives the VA secretary more flexibility to fire those involved in misconduct, authorizes construction of more than 20 VA medical facilities, uses $500 million to hire more doctors and nurses, and would establish a two-year program to allow veterans living more than 40 miles from a VA hospital to see the doctor of their choice.

The bill also includes measures allowing in-state tuition for all veterans at public colleges and improving medical care for military sexual assault victims. Surviving spouses of former service members would also be eligible for more VA education benefits.

The compromise on VA reform comes following the resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki after the agency’s inspector general confirmed charges that officials at a Phoenix clinic had lied about patient wait times. A White House-mandated audit also found fraudulent practices at a number of VA facilities around the country.

The IG report found veterans at a Phoenix hospital had waited an average of 115 days for an initial primary care appointment, while official data falsely claimed the wait was only 24 days.

— Martin Matishak contributed to this article.