The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees have reached a tentative deal on Veterans Affairs (VA) reform legislation, according to the Associated Press.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) were deadlocked last week on their respective bills to aid veterans hurt by care delays in the embattled healthcare system, but resumed negotiations Thursday night, according to the AP. They said in a joint statement that they had made "significant progress" over the weekend.
The lawmakers intend to reveal the full details of the plan during a news conference later this afternoon, but the AP reports that the proposal will likely allocate billions to open 27 new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses, and simplify the process for veterans who can't get prompt appointments within the system to schedule appointments outside of it.
The deal is good news for American veterans, Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the AP, but took entirely too long to reach. "It's about time [Congress] are doing their jobs," he said. "You don't get a medal for doing your job."
Veterans whose care has been delayed "don't care about all this back and forth," he added.
Sanders' proposal authorized $25 billion in funding over three years, while Miller's approved $10 billion in emergency spending with more to come under the congressional budget process. In addition to increased funding and an option for veterans to seek care outside the system, Sanders' proposal also empowered the VA to fire low-performing executives and created student loan forgiveness options for doctors and nurses who go to work within the VA system, FierceHealthcare previously reported.
The announcement comes the same week the Senate is expected to confirm former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new VA Secretary.