- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A bill advancing in the U.S. Senate to resolve problems in the troubled Veterans Affairs system would create new health facilities, including one in Lincoln.

Under the bill agreed to by senior senators Thursday, the measure authorizes the VA to lease 26 new walk-in health clinics in 18 states and spend $500 million to hire more doctors and nurses.

Nebraska Republican Sen. Mike Johanns’ office said the bill would authorize about $7 million for the Lincoln location.

“I’ve been committed to finding a pathway to bring these outpatient clinics to communities, and I’m encouraged that this plan would provide that needed resolution,” Johanns, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said Friday in a written statement.

The Senate bill is a response to a building national uproar over veterans’ health care following allegations that surfaced in April that as many as 40 veterans may have died while waiting an average 115 days for appointments at the Phoenix VA hospital or its walk-in clinics.

Earlier this week, the office of Nebraska Republican Rep. Lee Terry of Omaha provided numbers to The Associated Press showing 156 patients on the Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System’s waiting list as of May 1. That included 87 patients waiting for care at the Lincoln VA medical center and 64 at the hospital in Omaha. VA officials said facility administrators have not yet seen evidence in Nebraska or Iowa of secret waiting lists like those uncovered in other states.