Obama signs bill to fix delays in veterans healthcare

FORT BELVOIR Va Thu Aug 7, 2014 3:35pm EDT

The emblem for the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs is seen as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, August 7, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

The emblem for the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs is seen as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, August 7, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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FORT BELVOIR Va (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama signed a $16.3 billion bill on Thursday designed to provide veterans with more timely medical care and fix problems in the scandal-plagued Veterans Affairs department.

The plan passed Congress last week and aims to address what Obama on Thursday called "outrageous" misconduct at VA hospitals and clinics that included modifying records of delayed care.

"This bill covers a lot of ground - from expanding survivor benefits and educational opportunities, to improving care for veterans struggling with traumatic brain injury and for victims of sexual assault," Obama said at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, speaking to an audience of service members, veterans, and their families.

The VA was thrust into the spotlight this spring after allegations surfaced that it had covered up the months-long wait times some veterans had to endure before receiving medical care.

Former head of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned in late May as the scandal mounted, and last week the Senate unanimously confirmed former Procter & Gamble Co Chief Executive Officer Robert McDonald.

"As a new generation of veterans returns home from war and transitions into civilian life, we have to make sure the VA system can keep pace with that new demand," Obama said.

He said there was a new "culture of accountability" at the VA and that disciplinary proceedings to address the cover-up were under way.

"We've held people accountable for misconduct. Some have already been relieved of their duties, and investigations are ongoing," Obama said.

The law sets aside $10 billion for veterans to see private doctors if the wait time for an appointment at a VA facility exceeds 30 days, or the nearest facility is located more than 40 miles (64 km) away. 

The package also provides funds for the department to hire additional doctors and nurses, as well as open 27 new medical clinics.

"But I want to be clear about something: This will not and cannot be the end of our effort," added Obama, who has suffered a political fallout over the scandal after his repeated promises to put a priority on the needs of veterans as he wound down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Before signing the bill, Obama briefly addressed the death of Major General Harold Greene, who was killed on Tuesday in Afghanistan, and reasserted his commitment to caring for service members in the "9/11 Generation."

"Whether or not this country properly repays their heroism, properly repays their patriotism, their service and their sacrifice, that's in our hands," he said.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Caren Bohan and Lisa Shumaker)

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Comments (13)
4825 wrote:
Cost of $750,000 per vet in the US whether they are healthy or sick.

Aug 07, 2014 3:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Yeah Obama! Throw more money at it! What a jack ssa. 6 years it took for Obama to act. His solution for people NOT doing their jobs – give them more money! That’ll fix it!

At least it distracts the Liberal news from being forced to cover the elephant in the room – “Obama Giving Iraq To Terrorists With His Blessing”.

Aug 07, 2014 4:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Breadie wrote:
what Obama needs to sign is an Executive Order suspending the Civil Service union contracts – so that the managers / executives who ordered this cover up can be fired on-the-spot / immediately with none of this years and years of “paid leave” pending appeal appeal appeal.

actually, an Executive Order defunding and abolishing the VA and turning the health care responsibility over to Medicare would be a better solution.

Aug 07, 2014 4:35pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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