OVERNIGHT HEALTHCARE: VA critics press for reform after audit

More than 57,000 veterans are waiting for initial appointments at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics around the country 90 days after requesting them, according to a White House-ordered audit released Monday. The results show patients are waiting much longer than the 14 days the agency has said was its target for scheduling an appointment.

The report's release stirred an immediate response from critics of the VA within both parties. Earlier Monday, a bipartisan group of senators announced they asked Attorney General Eric Holder to immediately investigate evidence of criminal wrongdoing at the department's medical facilities.

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“Evidence of secret waiting times, falsification of records, destruction of documents, and other potential criminal wrongdoing has appalled and angered the nation, and imperiled trust and confidence in the Veterans Health Administration,” the letter, signed by 21 senators, said.

The group is led by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who are both military veterans.

The House also voted Monday to require the VA inspector general to notify Congress and the department secretary of any failure to adopt recommended reforms in its reports. Read more of The Hill's coverage of the audit and the vote here and here.

Burwell arrives at HHS: Kathleen Sebelius handed the reins at HHS to Sylvia Burwell Monday, marking the department's first top leadership transition since President Obama took office. Read about Sebelius's parting messages here, and our coverage of Burwell's path to become secretary here, here and here.

Tricky manuever: Virginia Republicans may have pulled off a coup de grace by persuading a Democratic state senator to step down, giving them the edge to push through a budget without Medicaid expansion. The Washington Post reports Republicans convinced state Sen. Phillip Puckett (D) to step down Monday for a possible job as deputy director of the state Tobacco Commission. Puckett’s resignation means Republicans will have a 20-19 majority in the Senate, allowing them to push through their own budget without Gov. Terry McAuliffe's (D) approval because they also control the House of Delegates. Read more here.

New leader at AMA: The American Medical Association selected a new president-elect, an emergency physician who has advised the federal government on health IT issues. Read more about the appointment of Steven Stack here.

Safe and nutritious: Federal health officials are finalizing additional regulations to ensure that infant formula is nutritious and safe from contamination. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set standards Monday that require additional safety tests on formula as well as attestation from manufacturers that their products promote physical growth in infants. While many companies adhere to similar standards voluntarily, those that do not follow the new rules by early September could face penalties. The compliance deadline is September 8. FDA officials said the rules are necessary to protect infants at the earliest stages of their growth. Read more on the regs here.


Tuesday's schedule

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight will hold a hearing on ObamaCare subsidy determinations.

The House Oversight Committee will launch one of two hearings on the Social Security disability program's determination appeals process.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will continue its markup of prescription drug and autism legislation.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution will hold a hearing on religious liberty, including discussion of the Affordable Care Act's birth control coverage mandate.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS will hold a hearing on its FY2015 appropriations bill.


State by state

After consulting, Cuomo ally to oversee Medicaid money

New Hampshire explains Medicaid expansion plan

Ruling by the end of July on Alabama abortion law


Reading list

Casey: VA scandal highlights US doc shortage

Merck to buy Cambridge's Idenix in deal valued at $3.85B

'Obvious Child,' the abortion rom-com


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