VA reform bill headed to Senate floor

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday said a bipartisan deal to overhaul the Veterans Affairs Department will soon hit the Senate floor.

Reid said he’ll bring the legislation up “in the next 24 hours, 48 hours at most” and said it’s “urgent” that Congress take action to fix the long wait times in the VA’s healthcare system.

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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who crafted the compromise bill with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), predicted the legislation will hit the Senate floor on Wednesday.

"We're going to take it up tomorrow," McCain told reporters. He did not say when there would be a final vote on the measure, noting "there will be amendments from both parties."

The bill would give the VA secretary more latitude to dismiss senior executives, provides $500 million to hire more doctors and nurses and establish a two-year pilot program that would allow veterans living more than 40 miles from a VA hospital to see the doctor of their choice.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the chamber might be able to finish the bill this week.

The House on Tuesday approved its own VA reform bill. Passed 421-0, the bill would require the VA to pay for enrolled veterans' medical care from private doctors if they cannot get appointments within the department's wait time goals.

— Cristina Marcos contributed.