| WASHINGTON, July 27
WASHINGTON, July 27 A tentative agreement has
been reached by the chairmen of the U.S. Senate and House
veterans committees on legislation aimed at resolving the
Veterans Affairs healthcare crisis, their spokesmen said on
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who heads the Senate
Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and his House counterpart,
Republican Representative Jeff Miller, will outline the
agreement at a news conference at 1:30 p.m. (1730 GMT) on
Monday, their spokesmen said.
"Miller and Sanders continued negotiations on a VA reform
package this weekend and made significant progress toward an
agreement on legislation to make VA more accountable and to help
the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other healthcare
professionals," their offices said in a statement.
The VA has been rocked by a scandal over cover-ups of
months-long waiting times for medical appointments at its
clinics and hospitals across the country. In Phoenix, doctors
have alleged that some 40 veterans died as their names
languished on secret waiting lists while officials
misrepresented wait-time data to meet targets for bonus
The controversy led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric
Shinseki in late May.
With time winding down before Congress begins a five-week
recess on Friday, pressure has been building to reach a deal on
a measure aimed at eliminating long waiting lists at VA
hospitals and clinics.
Negotiations on the measure had broken down last week as
Sanders and Miller rolled out competing proposals with a $15
billion gap between them.
The proposal introduced by Sanders on Thursday would provide
less than $25 billion in new funds for VA healthcare, with $3.3
billion offset by other savings in the department's budget.
Miller came back with a plan for $10 billion in emergency
funds, with other budget needs to be settled in the fiscal 2015
VA spending bill later this year.
(Reporting by Peter Cooney; Additional reporting by David
Lawder; Editing by Andrea Ricci)