Sen. Bernie Sanders Lays Out New Plan To Overhaul The VA

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I don't have a lot of hope that we're going to see Republicans actually wanting to do anything constructive when it comes to dealing with the problems at the VA, because their only real goal seems to be dismantling it, but as Jason over at PoliticusUSA noted this Sunday, it may be put up or shut time for the GOP now that Sen. Bernie Sanders is introducing a bill to expand vets benefits:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is making Republicans show how much they really care about veterans by introducing a new bill that would expand veterans benefits.

In a statement, Sen. Sanders described what the Restoring Veterans’ Trust Act of 2014 would do, “It would give the VA authority to immediately remove senior executives based on poor job performance while preventing wholesale political firings. It would provide veterans who can’t get timely appointments with VA doctors the option of going to community health centers, military hospitals or private doctors. It would authorize VA to lease 27 new health facilities in 18 states. It would authorize emergency funding to hire new doctors, nurses and other providers in order to address system-wide health care provider shortages and to take other steps necessary to ensure timely access to care. To address primary care doctor shortage for the long-term, the bill would authorize the National Health Service Corps to award scholarships to medical school students and to forgive college loans for doctors and nurses who go to work at the VA.

You can read the entire document at the link above and here's more from Sanders' interview with Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation where he discussed the legislation.

BOB SCHIEFFER: We want to go next to the chairman of the Senate Veteran's Affairs Committee, Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders. Senator, thank you for joining us this morning. Why has all of this come as such a surprise to everybody? It's hard for me to believe that these people who were not getting their appointments and all that, surely some of them must have written to their congressman complaining about this. And yet it just comes out of the blue that all this is going on. What happened here?

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, it's not only people writing to their congressman. There have been reports that have been written for a number of years by the inspector general, the G.A.O. I believe that the hope had been is that the V.A. had listened to those reports had acted.

In fact, well, one of the interesting problems that we have is that the V.A. in recent years said, "We want to expedite the ability of veterans to get into the V.A. We want to get them in in 14 days." And what is very clear to everybody right now is that in many parts of the country, the V.A. simply did not have the doctors and the staff to make sure the veterans got timely care, the system was then gamed, which is absolutely reprehensible, which must be dealt with through criminal prosecution and bureaucratic reshuffling. But we need to make sure that that never happens again.

The other point that I would make, Bob, is that if you ask the veteran's organization today, the American Region, the V.A.V., and the others, and you look at independent surveys, the truth is that when people get into the V.A., the quality of care is good. The problem that we have to address is access to the system and waiting lines.

We are going to introduce legislation either tomorrow or Tuesday, which addresses I think the short-term needs to make sure that any veteran who is on a long waiting line will be able to get the care that he or she needs either at a private facility or a community health center, or Department of Defense. But longer term, what we have to do within the V.A. is to make sure that they have the primary care physicians, the nurses, and the staffing they need to provide the quality of care that our veterans deserve in a timely manner.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you, as a chairman of an oversight committee, do you feel any responsibility for this? Is Congress is responsible for this situation as the administration is?

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I think everybody can bear some of the responsibility. We have had a number of hearings. We have met with all of the veterans organizations. I think the point right now Bob is to make sure we address the very real problems that are facing six and a half million veterans who utilize the V.A. system. And what we have got to do is to understand, you know, that the cost of war is very, very significant.

And that means that when you send men and women off to war, when they come home, we have a moral responsibility to make sure that all of them get the healthcare and the benefits that they deserve. And that is the responsibility of the United States--


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