Both the House and Senate intend to bring to the floor this week a conference agreement to reform the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and increase transparency and services in the Department of Veterans Administration (VA). The House will be the first to consider, what has been a delicate and sometimes contentious agreement to create, the conference committee report this afternoon.
The legislation (conference report to accompany H.R. 3230, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014) primarily deals with care at veteran medical facilities.
Provisions of interest to UW include:
- The conference report requires the VA to establish medical residency programs, or to ensure that sufficient residency positions exist at facilities with programs in specialties facing a shortage of physicians or located in a community that is designated as a health professional shortage area. It increases by up to 1,500 the number of graduate medical education residents over a five-year period, with a priority for primary care, mental health and other specialties as VA determines is appropriate.
- It also expands certain educational benefits to the spouses of servicemembers who die in the line of duty, including those who died since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and it requires colleges and universities to provide in-state tuition to veterans under the Post-9/11 GI Bill regardless of how long they have lived in the state.
After whistleblowers revealed that some employees of the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department were falsifying wait-time records for medical appointments and keeping many patients on unofficial waitlists to create the appearance that they were reaching wait time targets, there has been nearly universal Congressional support to make the VA more accountable.
A Congressional Budget Office estimate released late Tuesday stated the agreement would be a net increase to the deficit by about $10 billion through FY 2024.
The House is expected to pass the measure today and the Senate is expected to consider it later in the week.