House votes to allow veterans facing long wait times or living over 40 miles away from VA facilities to access private care.
Following the recent crisis surrounding veterans’ access to health care, the House of Representatives voted unanimously on Tuesday to pass legislation allowing emergency access to private health care.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs operates approximately 150 hospitals around the country and, in 2013, reported serving 8.92 million veterans. With such a large number of veterans in need of assistance, it was disclosed Monday in an internal audit by the Department of Veterans Affairs that over 100,000 veterans had been forced to wait 90 days or more before receiving an appointment.
CNN reported that the Department of Veteran Affairs acknowledged at least 23 deaths around the country as a direct result of the long wait times for care, a shocking revelation that sparked much of the recent outrage.
“This data shows the extent of the systemic problems we face, problems that demand immediate actions,” said acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson in a statement, who replaced the recently-resigned Eric Shinseki.
The House of Representatives’ Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014 aims to allow veterans who are facing long wait times or who live more than 40 miles from the nearest Department of Veteran Affairs facility to access private care at the expense of the Department.
Senator Harry Reid said the Senate will vote on a similar measure within the next 48 hours.
Further legislation addressing the failures of the Department of Veteran Affairs has been introduced, but this initial rush to pass legislation seeks to address the immediate and potentially dangerous pitfalls of the scandal as soon as possible.
Following the audit by the Department of Veterans Affairs, acting Secretary Gibson also introduced additional steps to be taken to drastically improve performance, including the suspension of performance bonuses for top Veterans Health Administration executives and the deployment of mobile medical units to better provide services to veterans waiting for care.
The Department of Veterans is contacting veterans facing long wait times to get much-needed care.
“We have to work to earn back the trust of each veteran and we’ll do that one veteran at a time,” said acting Secretary Gibson.