Senator plans bill to offer military veterans option on medical care

WASHINGTON Sun Jun 1, 2014 1:31pm EDT

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is interviewed by a Reuters reporter at Sanders' office in Burlington, Vermont November 28, 2006. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is interviewed by a Reuters reporter at Sanders' office in Burlington, Vermont November 28, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders said on Sunday he will introduce legislation this week that would offer military veterans the option of private medical care, rather than endure long waits at facilities under the troubled Veterans Affairs Department.

"We are going to introduce legislation either tomorrow or Tuesday which addresses the short-term need 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 base," Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" program.

Eric Shinseki resigned on Friday as Veterans Affairs secretary, under fire for scheduling abuses to cover up long wait times for healthcare at VA facilities. In Phoenix, doctors have said some 40 veterans died while awaiting healthcare.

Republican Senator John McCain said on the show that veterans had lost confidence in the VA and that the agency's problems are systemic.

"This scandal qualifies for a Department of Justice investigation and it should have started some time ago," he said. "Clearly, there are serious allegations that laws were broken."

Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, had said last month that he would reintroduce a bill to expand veterans' benefits that had been blocked by the Senate's Republican minority in February.

He said on "Face the Nation" that the government also must take long-term action to ensure veterans are properly cared for in a timely manner.

(Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Jim Loney and Marguerita Choy)

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Comments (12)
chuck2 wrote:
Yep, one more “help the vets” by Congress. Last one was when it was “Discovered” that For Profit Tech and Higher Education” were ripping off both active duty and vets via GI Bill taking the money, with nothing at all close to “get a job training”, You have all seen the ads, but Congress via lobby money and special interests always a priority, gave the rip off artists, three years or stop such crimes on vets. Yep and here comes another “help the vets”, wonder what the rates the hospitals, etc will get paid for this one, as the money talks loudest. Got to wonder how many years vets can survive all this “help” from Congress? Know lots of 10)+/- vets, who are NOT eligible for military retirements, desperate for jobs, as despite recruiter tales,they really have no training applicable for civilian jobs. At least retired have good check coming in, those who did not retire need real training and real job programs.
How shameful that Congress and Business feel there should be tax breaks and such for hiring vets, but this is new USA of “Vol Military” AKA keep sending that .05% back on repeated combat tours, such as never seen before, and oh yes, wave your imported flags as a Sunshine Patriots have always done.

Jun 01, 2014 2:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
REnninga wrote:
It makes perfect sense to me to offer to our Veterans the highest quality of medical care in the private sector and/or community and regional hospitals nearest where the veteran lives, paid for by the Veterans Administration.

I think it might even prove more cost effective; although that’s not the point. The point is best care, and timely delivery of medical care to our Veterans. We have made a promise to them, which we continue to fail to keep.

Many, if not most of the nation’s private sector and community hospitals have empty beds, and private sector general practice and specialist physicians will fill the gaps which occur in community medical care needs by good old “supply and demand.”

The hundreds of VA Hospitals which have been built around the country are largely redundant to community medical services which already are present and function efficiently. And with the exception of specialty Physical Rehabilitation and Prosthetics Centers for Veterans, and perhaps traumatic brain injury and mental health centers, I think Veterans would, for the most part, be much better served if the VA Hospitals system was largely shut down, and those facilities transferred (sold) to the private or community sectors.

That aspect of the Veterans Administration, in my opinion, should simply be an administrative “single-payer Veterans Healthcare system” (similar to Medicare) which receives private-sector and community hospitals and physicians billings, and pays for the very best care available to our Veterans, and as close to their homes as possible.

Private sector physicians and Community Hospitals can take patients quickly, even immediately, because they grow their practices and capacities to meet the demand.

A quote attributed to Albert Einstein suggests one definition of “Insanity” is “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Our Veterans Hospitals System has been failing our veterans for more than 40+ years, since being overwhelmed by veterans returning from the Vietnam War. Little has changed in these 40+ years since the problem was recognized, and if anything it has only gotten worse.

Isn’t it time to try something entirely different, such as allowing our Veterans to seek “Veterans Administration paid” medical care at the Community and regional specialty Hospitals of their and their physician’s own choosing?

Or are we only willing to further illustrate our society’s “insanity” by continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

Sell-off most of the VA Hospitals to the private sector and to the communities in which they stand. And let them “compete” with other available community medical care facilities to fill their beds by providing the very best and the quickest medical care to the Veterans and other citizens in those communities.

Jun 01, 2014 3:53pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SaveRMiddle wrote:
Bernie NEVER gives up on his attempts to help our vets. His attempt to do so in Feb was shelved due to games by the Republicans who make darn sure there is NEVER an exposure creating Standalone Vote.

And no, I didn’t vote for Obama.

Jun 01, 2014 5:35pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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