Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., struck a deal Thursday on a compromise bill to overhaul the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs.
The two lawmakers broadly outlined their measure on the Senate floor: It would allow eligible veterans to use non-VA medical care if they are facing long wait times or live more than 40 miles away from their nearest VA medical facility; and authorize the VA to enter into leases for 26 major medical facilities in 18 states.
Piggybacking on a bill passed by the House of Representatives, the McCain-Sanders Senate measure gives the veterans affairs secretary the power to demote or fire high-level officials connected to delayed medical care of veterans. Under the bill, those fired or dismissed would have seven days to appeal the action to the federal Merit System Protection Board, which would have three weeks to rule on the action.
‘We have a crisis on our hands and it’s imperative that we deal with that crisis,’ Sanders said. ‘And to my mind, the essence of the crisis is that we have learned that in many parts of this country - not all parts of this country, veterans cannot get the timely care they need.’
Sanders and McCain stressed that their bill is a compromise that contains provisions that perhaps neither would have included if they had written the measure on their own.
‘You know our hope as we concluded this legislation is that perhaps we could put some of our other differences aside that have beset this body and move forward and address this legislation as quickly as possible and begin to repair the damage because we have for all intents and purposes in some ways betrayed the brave men and women who were willing to go out and sacrifice for the well-being and