Bernie Sanders to Introduce Revamped VA Bill This Week

By Melanie Arter | June 2, 2014 | 1:28 PM EDT

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (AP Photo)

( – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” a bill to address the “short-term needs” of veterans who face long waits for health care will be introduced on Monday or Tuesday.

“If you ask the veteran's organization today, the American Region, the V.A.V., and the others, and you look at independent surveys, the truth is that when people get into the V.A., the quality of care is good. The problem that we have to address is access to the system and waiting lines,” Sanders said.

Sanders’ revamped bill will be introduced on Monday or Tuesday and addresses the “short-term needs” of veterans waiting in long lines, so that they will be able to seek treatment at a private facility, community health center or military bases.

It authorizes emergency funding to hire new doctors and nurses. It also provides scholarships or authorizes loan forgiveness for doctors and nurses who work at the VA, and it gives the Veterans Affairs authority to fire poor-performing executives, the Associated Press reports. The bill does not authorize as broad firing authority as the bill that the House passed but the Senate defeated last month.

“But longer term, what we have to do within the V.A. is to make sure that they have the primary care physicians, the nurses, and the staffing they need to provide the quality of care that our veterans deserve in a timely manner,” Sanders said.

Sen. John McCain, who also appeared on “Face the Nation,” said “it’s not just a scheduling problem in the VA. It is as in the words of the inspector general, a ‘systemic problem.’”

“And one of the keys to solving this problem, as I campaigned, if I might say, is to give the veteran the flexibility to get the care that he or she needs at the closest and most available place,” McCain added.

“There are V.A. facilities that are unique and wonderful, traumatic brain injury, P.T.S.D., prosthesis, war wounds, and they're the best at it. But why should a veteran have to get into a van and ride three hours to get to Phoenix in order to have routine medical care taken care of? Why doesn't that veteran have a card and go to the caregiver that he or she needs and wants?” he said.

“And that's the solution to this problem, this flexibility to the veteran to choose their healthcare, just like other people under other healthcare plans are able to do,” McCain added.