Monday, March 30, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Senate bill would double veterans’ health spending

By
June 18, 2014 |

WASHINGTON — Spending on veterans’ health care could double in three years under the Senate’s solution to the long waits experienced by thousands seeking medical care at VA hospitals and clinics, according to congressional budget experts.

Analyzing a bill the Senate passed overwhelmingly last week, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the measure would cost $35 billion over the next three years to build new clinics, hire doctors and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care.

Once the program was fully in place, the budget office said it “expects that veterans would ultimately seek additional care that would cost the federal government about $50 billion a year” in new spending – more than double the $44 billion the government now spends annually on medical care for veterans.

Both the Senate bill and a House version also passed this past week would dramatically expand government-paid health care. They would require the Veterans Affairs Department to pay private providers to treat qualifying veterans who can’t get prompt appointments at the VA’s nearly 1,000 hospitals and outpatient clinics or who live at least 40 miles from one of them.

The bills are Congress’s response to a growing uproar over patients dying while awaiting VA treatment and mounting evidence that workers falsified or omitted appointment schedules to mask frequent, long delays. The resulting election-year firestorm forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign two weeks ago.

An audit released last week showed that more than 57,000 veterans have had to wait at least three months for initial appointments. An additional 64,000 veterans who asked for appointments over the past decade never got them.

The VA has confirmed that at least 35 veterans died while awaiting appointments at VA facilities in the Phoenix area, although officials say they can’t say whether not getting VA treatment caused any of the deaths.

More than 8 million of the nation’s 21 million veterans are now enrolled in VA health care although only about 6.5 million seek VA treatment every year. The CBO analysts said VA now covers about 30 percent, or an average $5,200, of those veterans’ annual health care costs, excluding long-term care.

The Senate bill would open up VA health care to as many as 8 million veterans who now qualify for VA health care but have not enrolled, the budget office said. By making it easier to get outside care, the Senate bill and a companion measure in the House also would encourage veterans to seek VA coverage for a bigger portion of their health care, the report said.

Both bills would make it easier to fire or demote senior agency officials, and both would end bonuses to regional VA officials and other administrators based on meeting patient scheduling goals – a practice investigators say led some officials to create phony waiting lists to “game” the system.

But the Senate bill also would devote at least $1 billion to leasing 26 facilities in 17 states and Puerto Rico for use as new VA hospitals or clinics and $500 more million for hiring more VA doctors and nurses. Declaring the long appointment waits an emergency, the Senate averted having to raise taxes or find spending cuts elsewhere to cover the bill’s costs.

“By resorting to abusing the emergency escape clause, Washington is once again looking for the easy way out,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan policy group devoted to cutting federal deficits.

MacGuineas’ group criticized the Senate’s bill in a lengthy blog post after it passed, saying it would swell the government’s debt by creating a new unfunded entitlement program bigger than Congress’s expansion of Medicare in 2003 to cover prescription drugs.

“We can’t just write a blank check and think it will solve these problems,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., one of three senators who voted against the bill. He said “veterans deserve better than that.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the bill’s authors, lashed back, “If it is not an emergency that we have neglected the brave men and women who have served this country and keep us free, then I do not know what an emergency is.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the bill was expensive, but so were the wars that veterans have served in. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone will have cost at least $3 trillion, he said.

“If we can spend that kind of money to go to war . . . surely we can spend (less than) 1 percent of that amount to take care of the men and women who fought those wars,” he said.

The CBO did not provide a complete cost estimate on the House bill, which includes no provisions for new hospitals or clinics or hiring more VA doctors and nurses.

Both measures would spend billions to provide outside care for veterans, although the House would require Congress to appropriate money for it each year.

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said Congress would have to cover the costs, but he didn’t know where the money would come from.

“We’ll have to find a way,” he told reporters after the Senate bill passed. “It’s not going to be cheap. We know it.”

Miller also said there would be negotiations with the Senate over final legislation. “We’re not just accepting the Senate bill,” he said.

Sanders was optimistic that a quick deal could be reached. “I’ve worked with Jeff Miller. I think we can work things out,” he said.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • PatriotJune 17, 2014 - 6:57 am

    Amazing, now we will spend double the money for our heroes health care. Why now versus years ago? Oh yeah, Fox news has brought this to our attention.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895June 17, 2014 - 8:38 am

    BS. CNN broke this story.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

2 drivers killed in same area, an hour apart

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1, 3 Comments

 
Easter activities, events abundant

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Christians begin Holy Week with Palm Sunday celebrations

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
My guide to dining out

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2, 2 Comments

Local governments post week’s meeting times

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Top young spellers to compete for Solano title

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3

Police investigate shooting off North Texas Street

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Vallejo police seek leads in weekend homicide

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Biz Buzz: Re/Max hires new Realtor

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Biz Buzz: PAL receives donation from glass company

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Biz Buzz: Wiseman officer names Perez to key post

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A10

.

US / World

Police ramp up rail-crossing citations after recent crashes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Analysis finds unequal pay for women on California Capitol

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Songwriter injured in California crash; motorcyclist killed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Taylor Swift wins artist of the year at iHeartRadio Awards

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Drownings along Rio Grande spike after enforcement surge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Grandma is a centerfold: Rest home bares all for calendar

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Police: 2 bodies found in NYC building explosion rubble

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Islamic State group beheads 8 Shiites in Syria’s Hama

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Waving fronds around the world, Christians mark Palm Sunday

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Air Canada plane makes hard landing short of Halifax runway

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Small tsunami generated in Pacific after earthquake

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: March 30, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: March 30, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: March 30, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

 
Parenting: If a father is abusive, a mother must act

By The Washington Post | From Page: B8

 
Horoscopes: March 31, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B8

.

Entertainment

TVGrid March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

 
TVGrid March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

Michelle Obama declares ‘Black Girls Rock!’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
.

Sports

 
Spartans Final Four-bound after 76-70 OT win over Louisville

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Duke back in Final Four after 66-52 win over Gonzaga

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Montoya holds off Power to give Penske 1-2 sweep at St. Pete

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Stanford’s Randle chases school scoring record, title at NIT

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Hamlin wins for 25th time, and fifth time at Martinsville

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Hamlin wins for 25th time, and fifth time at Martinsville

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jimmy Walker wins hometown Texas Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Oakland OF Josh Reddick won’t be ready for start of season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
California Chrome heads to Britain, to race at Royal Ascot

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Vettel wins Malaysian GP to end Mercedes streak

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Joe Gibbs on son: most courageous person I’ve been around

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Chodounsky defends slalom title at US Alpine Championships

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
South Carolina earns 1st Final Four berth, beats FSU 80-74

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Turner says Saturday regional finals highest-rated in decade

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Apology for wrong anthem for El Salvador before game in US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Cain goes 4 innings in Giants win over LA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Graveman pitches into 7th inning as A’s beat Brewers 7-0

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

.

Business

.

Obituaries

Robert Roberts

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Janice Jewel Thompson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Beetle Bailey March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Rose is Rose March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Peanuts March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Zits March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Blondie March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Pickles March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Get Fuzzy March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Sally Forth March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

For Better or Worse March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baldo March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Garfield March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Dilbert March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baby Blues March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Frank and Ernest March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

B.C. March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Wizard of Id March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Bridge March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Word Sleuth March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Crossword March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Cryptoquote March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baby Blues March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Frank and Ernest March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
B.C. March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Blondie March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Peanuts March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Baldo March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Rose is Rose March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Beetle Bailey March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
For Better or Worse March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Dilbert March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Garfield March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Pickles March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Zits March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Sally Forth March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Get Fuzzy March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Wizard of Id March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Crossword March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

Word Sleuth March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
Bridge March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

Sudoku March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
Cryptoquote March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8