A compromise measure to address the crisis at Veterans Administration hospitals has the support of Sen. Deb Fischer.
Senate and House negotiators have agreed on legislation that would provide $5 billion to hire additional doctors, nurses, and other staff members at VA hospitals throughout the country.
The VA has been roiled by questions of its competence to give care to the country’s military veterans as well as allegations that staff members at its hospitals routinely falsified records to hide the fact that some veterans languished on extremely long waiting lists.
Fischer says new legislation also provides additional powers to new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert McDonald, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble.
“And part of this new legislation that’s coming out, a big part of it that came out of conference committee, will give him the ability to fire people if they aren’t doing their job,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call. “That’s really important to me. People need to be accountable. And now, he’s going to be able to do that.”
The legislation also will allow veterans on long waiting lines as well as veterans who live far from a VA hospital to seek treatment outside the VA system, as long as the physicians participate in the Medicare system.
“So this is going to open it up so they will be able to use physicians in their own communities,” Fischer says. “It’s going to help them in their care, but it’s important to realize this is also going to help their families and their care givers as well.”
Fischer says there is a lot of optimism in Congress that McDonald will implement the reforms needed at the VA.