June 11, 2014

Manchin Statement on Senate Passage of Bipartisan VA Bill

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today released the following statement after the Senate passed bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and John McCain (R-AZ) that will improve veterans’ access to medical services from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill also mandates that the VA hire an independent auditor, which was a measure Senator Manchin had originally called for in the wake of the VA’s reported problems. Senator Manchin was an original co-sponsor of the legislation, which passed in the Senate by a vote of 93-3.

“As our conflicts overseas come to an end and hundreds of thousands of veterans are coming home, it is clear that the demands of the VA have been enormously stretched. However, that is no excuse for the VA’s atrocious mismanagement nor the extensive problems we see at the VA today. We have a responsibility to our veterans to make sure they receive quality health care at every facility, and it is essential to uphold that commitment. 

“In order to make sure our veterans receive the care that they need and deserve, the VA must be comprehensively reformed. Any failure on the part of the VA to care for our large veterans population is simply unacceptable. That is why I am pleased that many of my colleagues have come together in a bipartisan way and recognized the urgency in making sure our veterans have immediate access to the services they need. I thank Senators Sanders and McCain for their leadership and their work to find balanced solutions to begin fixing the VA’s numerous inefficiencies. I will continue to closely monitor the VA’s implementation of their reforms as well as all internal investigations conducted by the VA.”

Please read additional information on the bipartisan legislative package below. 

The legislation includes provisions to:

Improve scheduling system for health care appointments

  • Mandate an independent audit to assess:
    • Appointment scheduling process
    • Staffing level and productivity at VA medical centers
    • Purchasing, distribution, and use of drugs and devices
    • Prompt payment to third-parties care providers

Address staffing shortages

    • Hire additional health care providers 
    • Improve training for managers and health care providers

Improve access to care from non-VA providers

    • Veterans would have the option to seek care from a Medicare provider, or a Federally Qualified Health Center; there would be a co-payment
    • VA must establish a system for prompt payment to non-VA providers
    • Non-VA providers must submit medical information electronically to VA

Improve access to health care services, including telemedicine and mobile centers

    • Review construction and maintenance projects, and leasing programs
    • Ensure medical center performance plans are based on quality of care
    • Publish appointment wait-time goals online and in the Federal Register
    • Provide information on medical providers’ training and credentials
    • VA budget to include details of hospital care and services through contracts
    • VA must establish disciplinary procedures for falsifying wait time data
    • Authorize removal or demotion of senior executives for poor performance

Expand health care related to sexual trauma

    • Counseling and treatment would be available to those on inactive duty
    • Expand eligibility for active duty personnel to be seen at VA facilities
    • VA must report on prevalence of domestic abuse in veteran population

Authorizes VA to lease 26 medical facilities in 17 states and Puerto Rico

Expand veteran benefits

    • Scholarships for surviving spouses of service members who die on duty
    • In-state tuition mandated for veterans who enroll in education within three years of separation and live in the state