VA Bill passes House Conference

Congressman Bill Owens votes to approve the Veterans Access, Choice & Accountability Act of 2014.. It’s a bill we’ve been hearing about for the past few days which will reform the Department of Veterans Affairs.. It went to conference to combine the Senate and House differences and conference report was approved by a wide bipartisan vote in the House of 420 to 5.

Congressman Owens says “This is a positive step forward for our nation’s veterans and military personnel,” and he continues by saying “These are people who have made great sacrifices to defend our nation and they deserve better than they have been getting.

Under the agreement, veterans will be allowed to receive care at non-VA facilities if they live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility or if VA doctors cannot see them within 30 days. New VA secretary Robert McDonald is also given greater flexibility to fire staff for poor performance or misconduct.

The conference agreement requires public colleges to provide in-state tuition to veterans and eligible dependents to ensure the school’s eligibility to receive payments through the G.I. Bill. It also funds an independent assessment of VA medical care and establishes a Congressional Commission that will focus on evaluating access to care throughout the VA health care system.

“With a combination of urgent fixes and long-term structural reforms, this agreement has the potential to significantly improve VA service and culture,” Owens added. “Ultimately this is about making the VA a more effective provider to serve the urgent needs of our nation’s veterans.”

The conference report provides $10 billion to pay for veterans to receive care from private facilities. It also provides funding to improve the VA system by hiring more doctors, nurses and other medical staff and leasing an additional 27 medical facilities around the country. $5 billion of the total cost will be offset by other spending cuts within the agency including a cap on performances bonuses.

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