Congress appears ready to embrace a $17 billion bipartisan measure to shore up the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats and represented them in negotiations, say the bill would look different if either had written it alone. When members of Congress don’t agree, recent example has them doing nothing. But this issue was urgent enough that both sides knew a workable deal was more important than ideology.
“We have a VA that’s in crisis today,” Miller explained. “The VA is not sacred; the veteran is.”
With that principle in mind, the measure isn’t going to save the troubled VA. But it should provide a temporary tool to improve veterans’ health care. About $10 billion will go toward letting patients with excessive wait times or long drives get care from outside the VA system. Another $5 billion will provide more doctors and other staff at VA facilities.
The bill also gives the VA secretary the authority to fire employees who have it coming.
If passed, the measure will be a good step. But fixing the VA entirely will be a long process.