Reid Remarks On The Importance Of Passing The VA Compromise Bill

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“So you can understand why I was so disappointed to learn that VA hospitals in Nevada were failing the very veterans’ who depend on the VA for help.”

 “The legislation crafted by Senator Sanders and Representative Miller will help prevent more American veterans from falling through the cracks of a broken VA system. The compromise will allow veterans facing long delays in health care to seek care outside of the VA, at private doctors’ offices, community health centers, or military bases.”

 “It is important that we move quickly to pass this bipartisan compromise in order to give Mr. McDonald and his team the resources they need to ensure American veterans are getting the care we’ve promised them. Senate Democrats stand ready to approve the Sanders-Miller legislation. I am confident that with support from Republicans, we can pass this bill as soon as possible.”

Washington, DC – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today on the importance of passing the VA compromise bill that ensures veterans receive the care they deserve, increases accountability at the VA, and provides emergency funding so that the VA can hire new doctors and nurses. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

 In August of 2012, a brand-new 700,000 square-foot veterans’ hospital and community center opened its doors in Las Vegas. The opening of that facility was the culmination of 7 years of hard work, in which I worked with Congressional committees and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to secure $600 million in construction funding for this project. This state-of-the-art facility has almost 100 inpatient beds, a nursing home unit, and an ambulatory care center. It provides critical, life-saving services to Nevada’s veterans. It was unquestionably, one of my proudest achievements as a United States Senator. But more importantly, it was a precious resource to veterans throughout my home state.

So you can understand why I was so disappointed to learn that VA hospitals in Nevada were failing the very veterans’ who depend on the VA for help. In Las Vegas, the average wait time was a shocking 50 days for new patients, and approximately 2,000 patients had been waiting 90 days or more to get an appointment. That is unacceptable.

As part of a nationwide, systemic problem, thousands of combat veterans have been languishing on nonexistent waiting lists at VA hospitals. Recently, a VA Inspector General’s report detailed many troubling, systematic failings which are putting our nation’s veterans at risk. Over the last several months, Congress has worked to address these issues.

Yesterday, the Chairmen of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees took an enormous step forward in addressing the ongoing crisis at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Senator Bernie Sanders and his House counterpart, Representative Jeff Miller, reached a bipartisan agreement that ensures American veterans will get the care they deserve.  The legislation crafted by Senator Sanders and Representative Miller will help prevent more American veterans from falling through the cracks of a broken VA system. The compromise will allow veterans facing long delays in health care to seek care outside of the VA, at private doctors’ offices, community health centers, or military bases.

Additionally, this legislation increases accountability throughout the Veterans Affairs Administration, holding senior officials responsible for poor job performance. And this compromise provides the VA with the funding and resources necessary to overcome its personnel and capacity shortfalls.  Specifically, the legislation provides the VA with $5 billion in emergency funding to hire new doctors and nurses. The Sanders-Miller bill also authorizes 27 new medical facility leases, providing much-needed space to a growing VA.

This afternoon the Senate will confirm a new Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Robert McDonald. It is important that we move quickly to pass this bipartisan compromise in order to give Mr. McDonald and his team the resources they need to ensure American veterans are getting the care we’ve promised them. Senate Democrats stand ready to approve the Sanders-Miller legislation. I am confident that with support from Republicans, we can pass this bill as soon as possible. I hope our colleagues in the House will move on this agreement sooner rather than later, so we can get this legislation to the President’s desk immediately.

The Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senator Bernie Sanders, has done great work. For years Senator Sanders has worked tirelessly to provide the VA with the tools it needs to meet the demands of a changing veteran population. He has been ahead of the curve, introducing legislation to improve the VA long before the reports of wrongdoing in Arizona surfaced. And even when Republicans hindered Senator Sanders’ hard work, he refused to give up. He refused to give in to political theater, instead keeping his focus on our veterans.

It was that focus on veterans that lead Senator Sanders to work with the senior Senator from Arizona, perhaps the most respected veteran in the Senate. And together, they championed a bipartisan compromise that was ultimately passed by the Senate. I very much appreciate Senator Sanders’ hard work in getting Congress this far. He understands that we owe America’s veterans far too much to leave them behind in their hour of need. I’m also grateful for the efforts put forward by his counterpart in the House.

Senator Sanders and Representative Miller have done their part. It now falls upon the rest of Congress to pass this legislation quickly. Our veterans have already waited far too long for us to act, we shouldn’t make them wait any longer. The Senate and House should pass the Sanders-Miller legislation immediately.

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