Blumenthal Pushes Veterans Affairs Reform Bill

Jul 29, 2014

Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

Senator Richard Blumenthal spoke in Hartford about a bipartisan compromise to reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health program, which has been impacted by long patient wait times.

The bill would allocate $10 billion in emergency spending to make it easier for veterans who can't get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care.

"This is a big bill," Blumenthal said. "But it deals with a big problem. I've heard over the past months about how big in scope and scale the problem of VA health care is in delayed treatment and sometimes lower-quality treatment." 

It also allocates $5 billion to hire new doctors and nurses, and sets aside money for improvements at more than 25 VA hospitals, including the Errera Center in West Haven, which focuses on veterans dealing with mental illness, substance abuse and homelessness.

The agreement, which was reached Sunday, comes nearly seven weeks after the House and Senate approved separate bills on veterans health care.

"It marks a bipartisan agreement," Blumenthal said. "[It's] less than the Senate wanted, but more than House initially offered. It is a compromise. It has a lot of good. It is the basis for more work and more action to try to improve Veterans' health care. Not the end of this story by any means."

Other measures in the proposal include scholarships and loan forgiveness for workers at VA facilities. The bill would also grant the VA more power to fire personnel. It still awaits approval from the full House and Senate.