Senate panel moves to block VA bonuses

 

Senate appropriators moved legislation on Tuesday to address a scandal surrounding allegations the Department of Veterans Affairs used falsified data to hide delays in care for veterans.

The Senate Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the VA included language in the 2015 spending bill for the department suspending bonuses for department officials until an investigation into the wait list affair is completed.

The bill also includes a $5 million increase for the VA inspector general to look into the matter.

"Let me be clear, the Committee has zero tolerance for any attempt to delay or deny care to veterans by concealing scheduling delays. Doctoring the books to make a hospital look good cannot and will not be allowed to take precedence over doctoring the patients," said subcommittee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD).

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Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said giving investigators additional resources is important.

“We have got to get to the bottom of what’s going on in the VA,” he told the subcommittee Tuesday.

The American Legion has called on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign over accusations that 40 veterans in Phoenix died due to being placed on a secret waiting list.

The White House says it has dispatched deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors to oversee a review of VA procedures.

Overall, the 2015 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill spends $71.9 billion. It passed out of subcommittee without objection

The bill will get a full committee vote on Thursday.

That amount is identical to the House-passed Milcon bill. The measure is generally the least controversial of the 12 annual spending bills and frequently becomes a vehicle for a stopgap continuing resolution if a government shutdown looms in October

The bill also contains provisions seeking to address the backlog in veterans medical claims exacerbated by an inability of the VA to access medical data held by the Pentagon.

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