Politics

Jeff Miller's VA Reform Bill and Funding Easily Passes House

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: July 31, 2014 3:55 AM
Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller

The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed a bill reforming the U.S. Veterans Affairs department, sending $17 billion to help its medical facilities.  

The new funds, which will be used over the next three years, come in the aftermath of reports across the nation detailing altered wait lists at VA facilities. As a result, Eric Shinseki resigned his post as VA secretary back in May.

Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, announced an agreement to increase funding for VA.

The agreement designates $10 billion for veterans to seek private care if dealing with extended waits at VA medical centers. Veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA medical center will also be eligible for private care. The agreement also designates $5 billion to add more medical personnel to VA centers.

The proposal passed the House 420-5 on Wednesday. Five Republicans -- U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford of Arkansas, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Jack Kingston of Georgia, Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Steve Stockman of Texas -- voted against the measure.

Miller took to the House floor to argue his bill was needed, saying the department was in a “crisis” and action had to be taken.

“We’ve come face to face with the problems our veterans routinely encounter and they are considerable, to say the least,” Miller said on the House floor on Wednesday. “Thousands of veterans across this country have been left to wait, some for years, some in pain and, most disturbingly, some in caskets draped with an American flag.”

Miller stressed that his proposal was not merely throwing money at the problem. "It's not a blank check for a broken system," Miller insisted.

The other congressmen from Florida rallied behind Miller‘s proposal.

“Audits and investigations have unveiled a horrifying picture of systematic and widespread lack of accountability in the Department of Veterans Affairs' health care system,” said U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., on Wednesday, after the vote. “People suffered the ultimate consequence of death, and our veterans have had to wait far too long -- sometimes more than 90 days -- to get the health care they earned and deserve.

“This situation is horrifying and unacceptable, and there’s a great deal of work needed to correct this abysmal record,” Crenshaw added. “This reform-minded bill takes long-overdue steps to restore confidence and accountability in the VA system. Among them: improved access to care, including the ability to secure private-sector medical care; the hiring of additional doctors and medical staff; structural improvements, new management tools to provide for the firing and demotion of senior VA employees based on performance, and improved benefits for veterans and their families.”

Saying the bill was only a “first step,” Crenshaw added more work had to be done.

“There is no quick fix,” Crenshaw said. “On the road ahead, I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and the VA as we put a stronger VA system in place for good.”

Democrats from Florida also backed the bill, including U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., who is the longest tenured member currently on the Veterans Affairs Committee. Brown took to the House floor to praise the proposal.

“The bill includes critical language that I discussed with Senate Chairman Bernie Sanders to ensure the VA has final authority over the care that veterans receive, whether at the VA or at non-VA providers,"  Brown said. “We need to continue to work with our veteran stakeholders to ensure the VA has all the resources it needs to provide superior health care to our veterans. This includes providing the necessary resources to address the ever-increasing population of women veterans.”

 Brown also went out of her way to praise President Barack Obama’s handling of veterans issues.

“Many people have said that we have given the VA everything they requested,” Brown said. “Now, I guess some people have short memories, because I remember that in 2009, with a Democratic House, Democratic Senate and Democratic President Obama, was the first time veterans were able to get the budget that they requested. We passed advanced budgeting and gave the VA the largest budget in the history of the department. Under President Barack Obama. I cannot be the only one who remembers that.

“It is important to remember how you got where you are,” Brown added. “As we move forward, it is important to remember who not only talks the talk, but who walks the walk or rolls the roll. It is important for us to remember how we got where we are.”

The proposal drew the opposition of the right-of-center Heritage Foundation, saying the VA department would be hard-pressed to transfer some of the monies it is required for more medical spending.

“Though the CBO’s recent projection reflects a total emergency cost of $10 billion, properly understood, the conference committee’s solution to the VA’s systemic inefficiencies amounts to the creation of a new entitlement that will likely increase at a rapid rate,” the Heritage Foundation noted on Wednesday. “After the House and Senate passed their respective versions of this legislation, the CBO released a report predicting that the cost of this program would eventually rise to roughly $50 billion per year. This projection was based on the well-founded assumptions about increased utilization by current VA enrollees, as well as increased VA enrollment due to the availability of the external care option. While the final agreement makes some tweaks and compromises on eligibility for the program, it does little to fundamentally alter the size and scope of the program that CBO’s previous estimates suggested could generate a $500 billion price tag over the standard 10-year congressional budget window -- that is more expensive than Medicare Part D.

“The Miller-Sanders Veterans package not only fails to address the systemic failures at the VA, but it creates an unproven new entitlement that sets taxpayers on a course to spend half a trillion dollars over the next decade,” the Heritage Foundation added.

The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate.



Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

Comments (6)

JimS
2:43PM JUL 31ST 2014
There's no 'deal' on this issue, it's just more obstruction and shirking of responsibility, DeJa-Vu for decades now and wars from, by the people served, Poser Patriots, through their hired representatives and leading to the want to privatize for corporate profit built on then bigger budgets from lawmakers!!

Rep Miller and Sen Burr, i.e Conservatives: There should never be NO Negotiations, NOR Offsets, Like Your Rubber Stamped For Corporate Profit Wars, Through Their Representatives on Veterans Issues, the Responsibility of the 99% Served!!

“Why in 2009 were we still using paper?” VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers “When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade.” 27 March 2013

Prior too this present Executive and Veterans administrations, with two wars dumped into their laps and virtually nothing done for the veterans of and once again veterans of previous decades and wars from:

October 23, 2008 - And now VA investigators are trying to figure out if this one-time survey points to the likelihood that documents have been improperly destroyed for months or even years.

"Whatever this problem is, it didn't just start in the last two weeks," said Dave Autry, a spokesman for Disabled American Veterans. "It'd be unreasonable to assume that. Who knows what's been destroyed."

The documents, which didn't have duplicates at the VA, would have been critical in deciding veteran pension and disability claims. As a result, many veterans are asking whether their delayed or denied claims were affected by lost paperwork. read more>>>

Oct 16, 2008 - VA claims found in piles to be shredded

October 24, 2008 - House panel will target VA shredding

February 11, 2009 - Veterans' Claims Found in Shredder Bins

ProPublica and The Seattle Times Nov. 9, 2012 - Lost to History: Missing War Records Complicate Benefit Claims by Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans
"DeLara's case is part of a much larger problem that has plagued the U.S. military since the 1990 Gulf War: a failure to create and maintain the types of field records that have documented American conflicts since the Revolutionary War."

Army Says War Records Gap Is Real, Launches Recovery Effort

And the just above is just recent history, not all that has been for decades and wars from!!

"If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth our treasure, too" "not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

These present wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, after abandoning the missions and those sent to accomplish so quickly after 9/11 to invade another, have yet to be paid for!!

USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71 - Independent**
JimS
2:32PM JUL 31ST 2014
Present: More Time Passes While Veterans Wait - Past: Decades & Wars From = DeJa-Vu

The five Republicans in the House of obstruction, especially in paying for the wars and the long term results of, DeJa-Vu, who voted no on the still obstructed and grossly under funded needs, decades and wars from now, watered down once again, bill: Rick Crawford (Ark.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Jack Kingston (Ga.), Mark Sanford (S.C.) and Steve Stockman (Texas). Joining these Senators: Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) , who had voted no weeks back while the House delayed after!! None having any problems, Poser Patriots, in rubber stamping All the war costs, no mention of offsets, including the no bid private contracts, off the books till administrations changed and all borrowed, yet to be paid back!!

Was it Politics or Greed Brought into VA Facilities{?} Where politics nor greed should ever cross those thresholds!!

Under Gen Shinseki, with a target on him after speaking military truth and the bush admin firing him with cheers from the supporters of, and with help from the entire Executive Branch and it's Cabinet, long ignored, Poser Patriots easy out to not Sacrifice, and some denied issues were being addressed. PTS, Agent Orange, Other War Theater Contamination's, Gulf War Syndrome, Homelessness, Jobs, Upgrading and adding new National Cemeteries as well as upgrading and adding new clinics and Veterans facilities {Thanks in a big part to the job creating during economic collapse Recovery Funds!}, adding much needed mental health care professionals for the long ignored PTS and more, to name but only a very few from decades and wars of in past to the present as these two wars, quickly abandoning the missions and those sent to accomplish after 9/11, were brought to an end. Also being addressed was the very slowing advance of, in the new 21st century, record keeping and more technology as the funds to stay advanced were obstructed in previous, as well as present, budgets.

This Administration, and it's Cabinet, they don't do the peoples purse strings, has been the 'Only Government Branch' consistently doing not only for Veterans but Military Personal and their Families since coming in!!

The responsibility of those served not maintained, obvious in this past decade plus especially, two tax cuts with two more wars, especially for the wealthy served, in taking care of those who served them.

These present wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, after abandoning the missions and those sent to accomplish so quickly after 9/11 to invade another, have yet to be paid for!!

Here's hoping that continues, and more, and those served fulfill their Responsibility, Finally, going forward and the Conservative dream of privatizing for corporate profit, Congress then can build the needed bottom lines with bigger budgets and added fee's then, is never brought to completion!!

USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71 - Independent**
JimS
2:34PM JUL 31ST 2014
Millers Bill???? He's one of the biggest, war rubber stamper, Veterans obstructors in the congresses full of them conservatives seeking to privatize for corporate profits and thus then can build bigger budgets for the needed growth bottom line, along with more rubber stamped wars to fill the needs as well!!
sam
2:09PM JUL 31ST 2014
wow, this is the first VA solution I can actually see working
Bill grant
11:26AM JUL 31ST 2014
This man, Jeff Miller, is one of the most deserving, yet unheralded, leaders of America. I served in Congress before his time...but I am proud he is a Floridian...and a real patriot. I am honored to call him a friend.
Bill Grant (FL-2).
Mark
8:42AM JUL 31ST 2014
Finally, Jeff Miller did something FOR the people without (so far) reaping any personal benefits. There's hope for him yet.

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