The U.S. Senate reached a compromise deal combining elements of two competing Veterans Administration reform bills that would, among other things, gives the go-ahead for the construction of 26 new VA hospitals and clinics.
The bill also allows veterans to receive care from a private provider, paid for by the VA, if their local VA facility cannot get them an appointment within the department's wait-time goals or if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. Each facility would be required to make public its wait-time goals and current wait times.
The VA has admitted that several dozen veterans have died while awaiting care at its Phoenix hospital, and its inspector general has claimed that hundreds of others veterans seeking treatment risked being “lost or forgotten” due to dysfunction at the facility.
According to figures released by the VA, nearly 60,000 veterans have waited more than 90 days without receiving their first care appointment at a VA facility, and more than 60,000 more having enrolled in the system over the past decade and been denied appointments.