House unanimously passes VA bill
The House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that allows veterans who having been waiting too long or live too far away to go outside the VA system to seek private health care.
The legislation, which was introduced Monday, was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
All of Southern Arizona's congressional representatives voted for the bill. U.S. Reps. Ron Barber, Raul Grijalva, and Ann Kirkpatrick each voted "aye."
What the legislation does, according to Barber:
The bill passed first by a vote of 421-0, and then passed 426-0 in a re-vote taken to include a few members who missed the first roll call, including the bill's sponsor.
Miller acknowledged, "I missed the first vote. I was in my office and missed the first vote," according to the National Review.
Tuesday’s bill closely resembles one sponsored last week by eight Republican senators, including Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, that would allow veterans to see private doctors if they experience long wait times or live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital.
The quick passage of this bill is in direct response to a crisis in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that began when problems were reported at the Phoenix VA Hospital.
According to early reports, some veterans may have died while waiting for care. An inspector general’s audit found 1,700 veterans who were awaiting primary care appointments in Phoenix but were not on any waiting list.
Public outcry led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who said his presence would be an unneeded distraction to fixing the problem.