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More than 100 bills aim to improve VA health care

Special to The Prospector

As a response to last summer’s Veteran Affairs health care scandal, where the White House reported significant and chronic system failures, more than 100 bills have been introduced in the House of Representatives to improve veteran health care this year.

Two bills were passed in the House earlier this month, and are pending approval from the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, has co-sponsored a bill regarding veteran health care and plans to push as many bills as possible through the House to the Senate.

“We can and should always do more to make sure our veterans are cared for and that the VA is held accountable and made more transparent,” Hurd said. “Many people in my district are directly affected by problems at the VA, so I’m proud to fight for a number of bills this year that will help veterans receive the health care they deserve in as timely a manner as possible.”

The scandal last year centered mostly on month-long wait times at VA hospitals, specifically a veteran’s hospital in Phoenix, which saw the death of 40 veterans while they waited for an appointment. Because of this, the focus of most bills has been to shorten wait times by giving veterans more options.

The Long-Term Care Veteran’s Choice Act would give veterans that require nursing-home care the option to transfer to a civilian medical facility. This option would become available for three years starting in October. 

The second act approved this month is one of the few that take disciplinary action against VA employees. This act would allow the secretary of the VA to order an employee to give back all or a portion of bonuses if they are found to have provided substandard care to veterans.

However, according to Richard Alegria, senior business administration major and president of the Military Students Association on campus, the situation in El Paso has actually worsened since the scandal.

“In the beginning, I had great experiences with the VA,” Alegria said. “It had worked perfectly. In the last six to seven months, it’s been hard to get appointments, really hard, you have long waits.”

He attributed the increasing wait times to the sheer amount of veterans coming in, and the fact that El Paso only has a VA clinic as opposed to a hospital. This also leads to other issues.

“They (veterans) can only get certain things at the VA, it’s not a true hospital,” Alegria said. “I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, I think they’re shorthanded and they could use a bigger facility.”

Alegria also said that he does believe the new initiatives will alleviate the situation. Besides the Long-Term Care Act, other bills propose giving veterans the choice to see civilian doctors. Alegria said this would be a great option since this could provide continuity for veterans.

“I’ve seen one (VA) doctor, then six months later I saw another one, then he moved and I got another one,” Alegria said. “So if you see a civilian doctor, who’s probably got his own practice here, it’ll be easier to stay with the same person.”

Stephanie Frescas may be reached at [email protected].

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More than 100 bills aim to improve VA health care