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POLITICS: PennAve

Eight things in the Veterans Affairs reform deal

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Veterans Affairs,Health Care,PennAve,Budgets and Deficits,Veterans

House and Senate negotiators Monday announced a $17 billion plan to reform the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs.

Here’s what the deal includes:

$10 billion

These funds would be used to provide vets with faster medical care when they face long wait times at VA medical facilities or live 40 miles or further away from one. The bill would provide vets with “choice cards” that would allow them to seek care from doctors who accept Medicare or at Department of Defense medical facilities, military bases, Indian health service clinics and other qualified health care centers.

$5 billion

This money would be spent to hire additional doctors, nurses and other medical providers in order to reduce wait times for veterans

$1.7 billion

This funding would be used to allow the VA to lease 27 new facilities in 18 states, including in Arizona where, according to Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson, 18 vets died while on a wait list.

Firing power

The bill would allow the secretary of the VA to fire senior executives who perform poorly or break the rules by lying or otherwise concealing problems at VA facilities. Fired employees would be eligible for a 21-day, unpaid appeal process.

The plan adds to the deficit

The bill allows for $12 billion in “mandatory emergency money,” which means it will be added to the nation’s deficit.

It also caps bonuses

The bill limits bonuses for senior VA staff, generating savings that will be used to help produce $5 billion in offsets.

Tuition assistance for vets

The legislation would create a scholarship program for surviving spouses of military personnel who die on the job and would provide a residency exemption so that veterans become eligible for in-state tuition at all of the nation’s state universities.

Housing assistance

The bill would also extend a program that provides housing for veterans who are suffering from brain injuries.

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