06/03/2014 06:14 pm ET Updated Aug 03, 2014

After Blocking Veterans' Health Bill, Republicans Offer Private Sector Alternative


Four Senate Republicans are proposing a bill that would give veterans more flexibility to see a private doctor if they are forced to wait too long for an appointment at a Veterans Affairs hospital or clinic.

Arizona Sen. John McCain and three other GOP senators introduced the bill Tuesday. The measure is the latest response in Congress to a furor over patient delays and cover-ups at VA health facilities nationwide.

The Republican chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is preparing legislation to make VA offer non-VA care to veterans who cannot be seen within 30 days. The independent chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has proposed a bill letting veterans go to community health centers, military hospitals or private doctors if they cannot a timely VA appointment.

"With ... this proposal if a veterans wants to go to a health care provider and he has this Medicare and Tricare [alternative] then that veteran can choose that," McCain said Tuesday. "The veteran should have the choice of where he thinks he or she can get the best treatment. That's what this is all about."

Although the GOP's Veterans Choice Act fails to address all of the problems plaguing the Veterans Affairs Department, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), one of the bill's co-sponsors argued, at least it's something different.

"It's choice, it's transparency and it's change," Burr said Tuesday. "It's not encompassing everything that Congress would like to pass as it relates to VA legislation but it addresses the urgent things needed right now."

The legislation comes in response to Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) reintroduction of the Restoring Veterans' Trust Act of 2014 on Monday. Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, first introduced the bill in February, but it failed to clear a procedural vote after 41 of the chamber's 45 Republicans voted against it. The measure aims to expand federal health care and education programs for veterans.



Veterans Affairs Secretaries