Sanders to introduce VA accountability bill

Lauren Schneiderman

The chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee is planning to introduce a bill to ensure military veterans receive better medical treatment amid allegations of treatment delays at VA hospitals.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said his proposal would increase accountability and improve veterans’ health care benefits, education and job-training programs. He plans to introduce the legislation after Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess on June 2.

ADVERTISEMENT
“In recent years, as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 1.5 million more veterans have entered the VA health care system,” Sanders said in a statement Friday. “Congress must do everything possible to make certain that the VA has the financial resources and administrative accountability to provide the high-quality health care and timely access to care that our veterans earned and deserve.” 

The Vermont senator said his legislation would also restore a one-percent cut in annual cost-of-living payments for military pensions. 

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of attempting to cover up issues at the VA that have resulted in some veterans being delayed treatment. 

Sanders has introduced the VA improvement bill before, but said Senate Republicans complained about the cost. Sanders’ office said the measure would cost $21 billion over the next 10 years. 

Sanders said the importance of providing proper care to veterans should outweigh concerns about the costs of the legislation. 

“If you think it’s too expensive to take care of our veterans then don’t send them to war,” he said this week in an exchange with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). 

Rubio said Saturday in an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times that the VA’s problems could not be solved with just more money.

Rubio touted his own bill to address the VA controversy that he said would make it easier for officials at the agencies to be fired for mistakes involving veterans' care.  

“Over this Memorial Day holiday, I encourage people to let their senators know why action must be taken to hold people accountable for the mistreatment of our veterans,” Rubio wrote. “Current law obstructs this accountability by forbidding the firing of negligent and incompetent VA officials, which is why my legislation is so important.”