Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is making Republicans show how much they really care about veterans by introducing a new bill that would expand veterans benefits.
In a statement, Sen. Sanders described what the Restoring Veterans’ Trust Act of 2014 would do, “It would give the VA authority to immediately remove senior executives based on poor job performance while preventing wholesale political firings. It would provide veterans who can’t get timely appointments with VA doctors the option of going to community health centers, military hospitals or private doctors. It would authorize VA to lease 27 new health facilities in 18 states. It would authorize emergency funding to hire new doctors, nurses and other providers in order to address system-wide health care provider shortages and to take other steps necessary to ensure timely access to care. To address primary care doctor shortage for the long-term, the bill would authorize the National Health Service Corps to award scholarships to medical school students and to forgive college loans for doctors and nurses who go to work at the VA.
The bill also would:
• Upgrade VA’s antiquated scheduling systems.
• Require President Obama to establish a commission on VA health care access and recommend, within 90 days, actions to bolster capacity.
• Extend comprehensive services and benefits to the most severely injured pre-9/11 veterans; standardize the process for sending patients to community health centers, military hospitals or other health care providers; and extend from five to 10 years access to VA health care for all recently-separated veterans.
• Provide help for veterans who suffered significant spinal cord, reproductive and urinary tract injuries and who now want to have children.
• Bolster the VA’s ongoing effort to eliminate shrinking but still unacceptable backlogs in processing claims for disability benefits.
• Make certain that all veterans get in-state tuition rates for college costs covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
• Improve the delivery of care and benefits to veterans who experienced sexual trauma while in the military.
• Remove the VA from annual budget battles by adopting so-called “advance appropriations” to protect veterans in case of a government shutdown.
• Restore a 1 percent cut in retirement cost-of-living adjustments that Congress enacted for current military service members.
It’s put up, or shut up time for Republicans. In February, Senate Republicans blocked a bill to expand veterans’ benefits because they claimed it was too expensive. Republicans want the VA to have the ability to fire senior executives quickly, and some have called for vets to be able to go into the private health system for care during this current crisis. Sanders’ legislation gives Republicans what they were asking for.
The legislation also gives Senate Republicans a chance to right the disgraceful wrong of February by voting to authorize the construction of 27 new clinics and facilities. House Republicans are currently pushing a $600 billion tax cut for business, so don’t be fooled by Republican cries that the $21 billion veterans’ bill is too expensive.
Republicans love to wave the flag, and claim that they care about vets. They have a chance to backup their so far empty words with action. If Senate Republicans really do care about our veterans, they will vote yes on the Restoring Veterans’ Trust Act of 2014.