• Both sides of aisle pitch plans to take care of VA backlog

    By: Justin Gray


    WASHINGTON - Democrats and Republicans in Congress are proposing new bills this week to try to fix the mess at troubled VA hospitals.

    Both plans would allow veterans to get help outside the VA system.
    “It’s called 'competency' and what we need to do is demand accountability,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma.

    Senate Republicans say they have a plan to fix the immediate crisis at the nation's VA hospitals.
    The key part of the new Veterans’ Choice Act would be to give vets who can't get an appointment scheduled at a VA hospital or clinic a choice to go somewhere else.
    “(It will) give these veterans a choice card so they can take that choice card and bring it to health care providers,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona.
    A competing Democratic plan is also being introduced this week. It would also allow vets to get treatment outside the VA system and it would grant emergency money for new doctors and nurses.
    “If there's ever anything that's an emergency, this is it. But it does take care of the vets, not everything they need, but it's money well spent,” said Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid.
    Democrats have scheduled a hearing on their version of the VA reform bill on Thursday.
    But Reid said he offered Republicans a deal: Agree to a vote on the Democratic VA plan and he'll allow a vote on a bill that passed the House giving power to the VA secretary to quickly fire bad employees
    “I hope they accept this offer so we can take action to address the problems of the VA this week,” Reid said.
    If the parties can make a deal, Reid said there could be a vote as soon as Wednesday.
    But the desire to do something for veterans may run headfirst into partisan gridlock.

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