GOP senators: Let's give veterans a ‘choice card’ for medical care

 

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday introduced legislation that would grant veterans the flexibility to seek treatment at private healthcare providers.

The measure, dubbed the Veterans Choice Act, “squarely addresses the root causes” of the troubles plaguing the Veterans Affairs Department, McCain said at a press conference.

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The bill would allow veterans who cannot schedule an appointment with a VA doctor in a “timely fashion” to see a private healthcare provider within a 40-mile radius by using their “choice card,” according to McCain.

The measure would grant the next VA chief the power to remove any top executive based on job performance. The secretary would then have to provide Congress with an explanation as to why an employee was removed, McCain said.

The legislation would also eliminate scheduling and “wait time goals” as factors that determine a VA manager’s job performance.

The legislation is backed by GOP Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.) and Richard Burr (S.C.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Coburn said that the legislation would “sunset” after two years, giving the department “plenty of time” to clean up its act.

The proposal is the latest legislative fix to be put forward after investigators found “systematic” problems at VA clinics that include hiding long wait times for appointments. A VA inspector general interim report found that 1,700 veterans had been left off the patient rolls at one center in Phoenix .

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