Chairman Sanders Details VA Proposal

WASHINGTON, July 24 – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today detailed compromise legislation that he offered to House negotiators that would reform the VA and give it the tools to provide quality, timely health care to veterans.

The proposal (click here for details) would address the need for short-term, emergency access to care while strengthening VA’s capacity to address veterans’ needs in the long term. It also includes a provision to allow for the removal of incompetent officials at the VA.

The Senate voted 93-3 on June 11 for a bill that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost $35 billion. The House separately passed veterans legislation that CBO estimated would cost $44 billion. Sanders’ latest proposal – given last Friday to House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) – would cost less than $25 billion.

Instead of working constructively toward a compromise, Miller unilaterally called a “conference committee meeting” to unveil his take-it-or-leave-it gambit. “This is a sad indication that the House leadership is not serious about negotiations.  We don’t need more speeches and posturing. We need serious negotiations – 24/7 if necessary – to resolve our differences in order to pass critical legislation,” Sanders said.

“The major veterans’ organizations have been clear about the needs of the VA. It is time for the House to pay attention,” Sanders added. He was referring to a letter from the nation’s major veterans groups on Wednesday backing increased funding for more doctors, nurses and space at VA facilities. (Read the letter.)

Sanders said the proposal that he detailed for Miller on Monday concedes that some of the costs of this bill should be offset and would provide more than $2.5 billion in savings from within the Veterans’ Affairs Committees’ jurisdiction. “What it does not concede,” Sanders said, “is that the cost of war is expensive and that the cost of war does not end when the last shots are fired and the last missiles are launched.  The cost of war continues until the last veteran receives the care and benefits that he or she has earned on the battlefield.”