- Obama not worried about Ebola at upcoming African summit in D.C.
- Obama: ‘We tortured some folks’ after 9/11
- Obama administration asked whole D.C. Circuit to take on major Obamacare case
- Mark Levin: Topple GOP leadership or country will ‘unravel’
- Massachusetts to let police chief deny gun buys to those deemed unfit
- John Kerry condemns attack on Israeli soldiers, kidnapping
- U.S. starts to evacuate American Ebola patients from West Africa: Report
- Geraldo slammed as ‘dummy’ for backing Clinton’s bin Laden claim
- Israeli spokesman: No need to debate who broke the cease-fire
- 35 Palestinians killed; Israeli officer missing
VA groups say speed, not spending, key for overhaul
Urge Democrats to keep bill slim
Question of the Day
Senate Democrats are rushing to craft a bill to revamp the Veterans Affairs Department in the wake of the burgeoning treatment scandal, but they are running into hurdles from some veterans groups who warn Democrats not to let a long wish list of spending get in the way of quick action.
Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent and chairman of the key committee in the Senate, introduced a 350-page bill Monday that combines quick changes to let the VA secretary fire people more easily with a broader overhaul of the department's health care services, providing everything from fertility care to acupuncture.
But the House already has passed a slim bill that would give the VA secretary even broader firing authority, and some key veterans groups say speedily passing that bill is more important right now.
"We want the VA Accountability Act as it stands to pass," Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told reporters Monday. "It's got bipartisan support, it flew through the House, the Senate should act quickly to do the same, get it in front of the president's desk and get it done."
Republicans tried to force the House bill through the Senate two weeks ago, just before lawmakers adjourned for a weeklong Memorial Day vacation, saying that it would pass by an overwhelming majority if put up for a vote. But Mr. Sanders blocked them, saying that though he agreed with portions of the bill, the House version politicized the struggle of veterans. He said he would write his own legislation that included only the most important parts of the House bill.
The push for quick action was spurred by reports that officials across the VA are cooking the books to hide lengthy wait times and are not providing quality care to veterans. An inspector general's report released last week confirmed some of those reports.
The House passed its version on a 390-33 vote last month, speeding the measure through even before the inspector general's assessment was completed.
The firing provisions have widespread support. As it stands now, there's a lot of red tape in the way and it can take more than a year to get rid of a high-level employee.
But Joe Violante, legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, said his organization doesn't support the House bill, which strips out all checks and balances and leaves a wrongly-accused employee no way to appeal his or her termination.
"It would put the VA in a very bad situation attracting and retaining qualified individuals," he said. "It doesn't do anything about accountability, it just allows the secretary to fire whoever he or she wants."
Where some groups are calling for speedy action, Mr. Violante said the Senate may be moving too hastily. He said he just received a copy of the massive bill on Sunday and has to prepare for a Thursday hearing before Mr. Sanders' committee.
"It would've been nice to have some additional time," he said. "In my mind it's an important bill, but I'd like to read through it, analyze what's in it, figure out what it means for VA before we move it so quickly. I'm sure it has a lot of great provisions in there, but I'd like some time."
GOP senators will announce their own plan to fix the VA on Tuesday afternoon. Sens. John McCain, Arizona; Tom Coburn, Oklahoma; Richard Bur, North Carolina and Jeff Flake, Arizona, will introduce the Veterans Choice Act, which will give veterans more options when selecting a health care provider as well as increase transparency at the VA.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Jacqueline Klimas covers Capitol Hill for The Washington Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sen. Tom Coburn vows to slow down budget-busting bills ahead of recess
- Senate bill quadruples fines for colleges that stay silent on sexual assault
- Rep. Jeff Miller: 'Ain't no leash for VA'
- House passes VA reform compromise
- Newly confirmed VA chief greeted with lawsuit over military sex assault treatment
Latest Blog Entries
- Miss. GOP chair: Huckabee distracting from GOP's reasonable pro-life stance
- Commerce Secretary 'optimistic' about U.S.'s economic standing worldwide
- Less than half of registered voters would re-elect their congressman, poll finds
- Half of registered voters in Va. would re-elect Sen. Mark Warner
- 2013 was second most polarizing year of Obama's presidency
TWT Video Picks
By Orrin G. Hatch
Procedural changes impede the chamber's traditional deliberative function
- Border agents cleared of civil rights complaints from illegal immigrant children
- Ben Carson takes major step toward presidential campaign
- U.N. condemns Israel, U.S. for not sharing Iron Dome with Hamas
- Obama military strategy too weak for future security, panel reports
- Porn-surfing feds blame boredom, lack of work for misbehavior
- House GOP resurrects border bill, predicts successful Friday vote
- Feds raid S.C. home to seize Land Rover in EPA emission-control crackdown
- Ted Nugent slams 'lying freaks' at liberal media: I'm 'doing God's work'
- CRUZ: A tale of two hospitals: One in Israel, one in Gaza
- Pentagon wants extra $19M to equip, train Ukrainian troops
Top 10 U.S. military helicopters
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors