Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 9, 2015

Sanders Unveils Emergency VA Measure, Could Soon Hit Senate Floor (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernard Sanders on Sunday unveiled his plan for emergency legislation to address the scandal that’s enveloped the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The plan from Sanders, a Vermont Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, includes previously announced provisions for enhanced firing authority for senior personnel, but adds due process provisions not in a House-passed bill. The Senate VA panel will hold a hearing about the measure this coming Thursday, with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., having indicated it could soon reach the Senate floor.

The new legislation makes it less likely that a bipartisan House VA accountability bill that passed that chamber with 390 votes will be taken up on the floor of the Senate.

“There must be a culture of honesty and accountability within the VA and people who have lied or manipulated data must be punished. But we also have to get to the root causes of the problems that have been exposed,” Sanders said. “The simple truth is that with 2 million more veterans coming into the system in recent years there are many facilities within the VA that do not have the doctors, nurses and other personnel that they need to provide quality care in a timely way.”

Sanders’ legislation calls for overhauling the VA appointment scheduling computer system, setting a deadline of the end of the first-quarter of 2016 to get that into place. It would authorize 27 major medical facility leases at locations throughout the country. It also would grant an emergency authorization for funds to hire additional medical personnel to help address the claims backlog and the delays that veterans have faced in getting access to health care services.

Sanders was also among the guests who appeared on the CBS program Face the Nation to discuss the crisis at the VA and Friday’s resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki. On that program, he highlighted the new legislation’s provisions allowing for veterans facing long lines to make use of private medical facilities.

Sanders said on CBS that the legislation would likely be introduced by Tuesday.

According to the bill summary, the measure contains many provisions modeled on previous omnibus veterans health legislation. When Sanders brought legislation to the Senate floor in February, it fell on a budgetary point of order following a 56-41 vote on a motion to waive the budget rules that fell short of the needed 60 votes, thanks to Republican opposition. That bill had a discretionary price tag of about $18.3 billion, mainly offset using the so-called future savings in overseas contingency operations account associated with ending the war in Afghanistan.

The earlier bill also reached the floor in the heat of a debate over whether to allow a vote on new sanctions against Iran, a provision included in a GOP alternative.

“In order to reach out for bipartisan support, some provisions were modified and others were removed, which significantly brings down the cost of this section of the bill when compared to the previous version,” the summary of the new legislation said.

A full summary of the VA legislation has been posted here.

Comments (79)

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  1. Jazzy

    June 1, 2014
    10:04 p.m.

    Renewui and save some families from starvation, eviction, repossession, damnation.

    The biggest tragedy of 2014 actually started December 28, 2013, when congress failed to renew EUC. Now over 2.9 million families are in the gutter. And what does Obama due to stir attention elsewhere? Bargain with terrorists for the return of an AWOL soldier. One soldier.

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    • Evelyn William

      June 2, 2014
      2:39 p.m.

      What about the single parents in the group of 2.9 million whos kids have to have food, roofs, shoes?

  3. JohnnyAngel Advocacy Group

    June 2, 2014
    6:36 a.m.

    What was really in that February Sanders bill ? Lay blame on GOP if you want, but Sanders (a socialist for one payer gov. med system) still has to show the error of his all controlling gov. failure by invoking privatizing VA in emergency. Will he see the error of his ways ? Don’t make us laugh !!!

    • Thirteen

      June 2, 2014
      3:02 p.m.

      You mean S. 1950? What do you think was really in it? You can read the text yourself, here. Wow us with your insight.

      “(a socialist for one payer gov. med system)”

      Both true! What’s your point?

      “Will he see the error of his ways ? Don’t make us laugh !!!”

      Asking yourself a rhetorical question and then answering yourself isn’t exactly a sign of a well-thought-out argument, dude.

  4. Oliver Ales

    June 2, 2014
    9:47 a.m.

    The notion that liberty means “freedom from obstacles” is often cited by central planners consolidating the power to coerce others.

  5. Andre Leonard

    June 2, 2014
    10:34 a.m.

    These are all nice gestures that come too many days late.

    The best outcome would be to scrap the sub-par VA medical treatment model and allow our Veterans to receive services at private hospitals and clinics.

  6. Layla

    June 2, 2014
    3:46 p.m.

    Why can’t they have the same healthcare that you do, Senator? Shame on Congress and this Administration.

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    Since a free nation cannot eliminate discontent due to envy, if we are to preserve liberty, we must not sanction envy with “social justice”.

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