Republicans Offer Alternative VA Health Care Bill

A bill proposed by four Senate Republicans would give veterans more flexibility to see a private doctor if they are forced to wait too long for an appointment at a Veterans Affairs hospital or clinic.

Arizona Sen. John McCain and three other GOP senators introduced the bill Tuesday, the latest response in Congress to a furor over patient delays and reports of falsified records at VA health facilities nationwide.

A federal investigation into the troubled Phoenix VA Health Care System found that about 1,700 veterans in need of care were “at risk of being lost or forgotten” after being kept off an electronic waiting list. The investigation also found broad and deep-seated problems throughout the sprawling health care system, which provides medical care to about 6.5 million veterans annually.

A document released Tuesday by Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, both Kansas Republicans, showed that at least 108 veterans waited more than 90 days for appointments with a primary care doctor at nine hospitals and 51 outpatient clinics in Kansas, Missouri and parts of four other states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Arkansas.

A bill being crafted by the Republican chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee would require the VA to offer outside care to veterans who cannot be seen within 30 days. And the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee’s chairman, an independent, has proposed a bill to pay for veterans’ appointments at community health centers and military hospitals or with private doctors if they cannot get a timely appointment at a VA facility.