Senate Version Adds Costs To VA Overhaul Measure

The Senate passed a bipartisan bill to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. The measure is close enough to a version already passed by the House that it could reach the president's desk soon.

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Congress has moved quickly on another issue, reform at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some veterans have been waiting months to get doctors' appointments and some VA officials have lied about how quickly patients get seen. NPR's Quil Lawrence reports on the bills making their way through the House and Senate.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: The two main backers of the bill that passed the Senate yesterday, Vermont's Bernie Sanders and Arizona's John McCain, aren't usually on the same side of any issue. McCain said they compromised.

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SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Is it exactly what I wanted? No. Is it exactly what the senator from Vermont wanted? Absolutely not. But this is an emergency. I tell my colleagues if it's not an emergency of how we care for those who have served on the field of battle, then nothing else is before this body.

LAWRENCE: Like a version passed in the House, the Senate bill makes it possible for vets to get a voucher for private care in their community. It also makes it easier to fire VA employees and cancels performance bonuses. The Senate version also adds some big costs, letting the VA lease 26 new facilities and hire hundreds of new doctors to absorb the swelling demand for VA care, as new vets come home from war and veterans from previous wars get older. Quil Lawrence, NPR News.

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