Senate Passes Bill to Address Systemic Delays at VA

Bennet Cosponsored Bipartisan Legislation

Continues to Push for Structural Reforms to Deliver Services that Colorado Veterans Earned

The United States Senate today passed a bipartisan bill to help address the extreme delays many veterans face when they attempt to access health care services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill passed 93-3 and now heads to the House of Representatives.

“The VA needs to do better, and soon. This bill gives the VA tools to bring down wait-times and bring VA medical care up to the quality we should expect for our country’s veterans,” Bennet said. “This is only the first step in many, and we must commit to continued diligence as these changes are implemented and the agency makes the structural reforms necessary to improve its ability to be effective and responsive. That includes improving access to care in rural areas and improving the process for building new health care facilities, like the VA hospital under construction in Aurora that has been riddled with complications.”

The bill includes a bipartisan proposal supported by Bennet that would enlist private sector technology companies to assist the VA in assessing and fixing problems with its scheduling system that have led to the extreme delays.

This bill also would:

  • Give veterans access to private doctors, community health centers, Department of Defense medical facilities, and facilities funded by the Indian Health Service.
  • Provide for the immediate firing of poorly-performing senior officials, while also including an expedited appeals process to prevent the new authority from being abused for political purposes or other reasons.
  • Provide for the expedited hiring of new personnel at facilities that lack enough doctors, nurses, and other medical staff to provide quality care in a timely manner.
  • Ensure dedicated funding is available to hire health care professionals.
  • Allow veterans living more than 40 miles from a VA facility or experiencing excessive wait times to access more convenient private care.
  • Call for independent commissions to look at how the VA can do a better job in terms of scheduling appointments as well as a commission on VA construction.
  • Make certain that all recently-separated veterans taking advantage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill get in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. 
  • For the first time, extend Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits to surviving spouses of veterans who have died in the line of duty.

Since news of systemic problems within the Veterans Health Administration was brought to light, Bennet has urged VA leadership to quickly assess the problems and make the necessary changes to address them. Last month, he joined members of the Colorado delegation in requesting the administration to provide results of the VA’s internal audit relating to Colorado facilities. He also requested that the VA Inspector General include all facilities that serve veterans in Colorado in its ongoing investigation. Last week, Bennet joined a bipartisan group of senators in urging the administration to accept assistance from technology companies to help fix the broken VA scheduling system. Additionally, at Bennet’s request, the Inspector General has launched an investigation into the planning, contract award, construction and overall management of the new VA hospital in Aurora, which has been plagued by delays.