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$17B deal reached to overhaul VA


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213508-17b-deal-reached-on-veterans-billThe Hill:

House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a $17 billion bill meant to reform the Veterans Affairs Department, setting up a scramble this week to send the legislation to President Obama’s desk.


The new bill would provide $10 billion for veterans to seek private care at hospitals and clinics outside the VA, and $5 billion to allow the department to hire more doctors, nurses and medical staff. Another $1.5 billion could be spent on leases to use other medical facilities at 27 sites around the country.


The compromise would also make it easier for a new Veterans Affairs secretary to fire staff at a department where officials covered up the long waits many veterans endured to get healthcare.

Both Republicans and Democrats accepted concessions to reach a deal, some of which could cost them votes.

The final bill is smaller than the Senate’s original three-year bill, which the Congressional Budget Office said would add $35 billion to the deficit over the next decade. It includes new restrictions that limit the number of veterans who could seek private care to those who are enrolled in the Veterans Affairs system as of Aug. 1.

Once the $10 billion in funding for veterans to seek private care runs out, the VA will have to come back to Congress through the normal appropriations process to win more funding.

Republicans, for their part, conceded that $12 billion of the bill’s costs would be considered emergency mandatory spending that would add to the deficit. Republicans had wanted to offset all the costs with spending cuts.Scissors-32x32.png

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