Deal struck on VA reform bill

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Leaders in the House and Senate have reached a deal on legislation to reform the Veterans Affairs Department and are poised to unveil it on Monday.

Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), told The Hill in an email that an agreement has been reached that will “deal with both the short-term and long-term needs of the VA."

The VA bill appeared in doubt last week, as Sanders and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), the chairmen of the two Veterans Affairs' committees, butted heads over rival proposals. But they kept talking over the weekend and on Sunday suggested a deal was at hand.

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“Miller and Sanders continued negotiations on a VA reform package this weekend and made significant progress toward an agreement on legislation to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals,” the lawmakers’ offices said in a joint statement.

Sanders and Miller will appear together at a joint press conference at the Capitol on Monday afternoon and are likely to announce a final agreement at that time.

Tensions between the two chairmen burst into the open last week, when Sanders publicly accused House lawmakers of being “not serious” with a meeting that was boycotted by most Democrats.

Both chambers have passed bills to make it easier for veterans to get help from non-VA facilities, but they differ in terms of how to pay for the multibillion-dollar proposals.

Sanders has proposed a $35 billion measure allowing some veterans without an available nearby VA facility to get care from non-VA doctors. Some, but not all, of the costs would be offset elsewhere in the federal budget.

Miller, meanwhile, has a competing plan that would provide $10 billion in emergency funding for the VA, which could be used at any time over the next five years.

Both lawmakers agreed to stay in Washington through the weekend to hammer out a deal on the matter, which is running against the clock.

Both sides have been eager to get a deal done before lawmakers skip town for the monthlong August recess.

Lawmakers are wary of returning home to face their constituents without having taken action to speed up the long wait times in the VA system. The wait times became a national scandal after reports that veterans died while waiting for care.

— This story was last updated at 6:07 p.m.