House Approves $16.3 Billion VA Health Care Overhaul

The House overwhelmingly approved a landmark bill Wednesday to refurbish the Veterans Affairs Department and improve veterans’ health care.

The 420-5 vote sends the bill to the Senate, where approval is expected by Friday.

The $16.3 billion measure is intended help veterans avoid long waits for health care, hire more doctors and nurses to treat them and make firing senior executives at the VA easier.

The measure includes $10 billion in emergency spending to help veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care; $5 billion to hire doctors, nurses and other medical staff and about $1.3 billion to lease 27 new clinics across the country.

The House vote came one day after the Senate confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald to lead the sprawling agency, which provides health care to nearly 9 million enrolled veterans and disability compensation to nearly 4 million veterans.

McDonald, 61, of Cincinnati, will replace Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, who took over in May after Eric Shinseki resigned amid a growing uproar over reports of long veterans’ waits for health care and VA workers falsifying records to cover up delays.

McDonald has pledged to transform the VA and promised that “systematic failures” must be addressed. He said improving patient access to health care was a top priority, along with restoring transparency, accountability and integrity to the VA.