Thanks to a new bill signed by President Barack Obama,veterans might be able to more easily access government-paid healthcare. The bill was one of the government’s strongest responses so far to the many reported problems with the Veterans Affairs Department.
“This will not and cannot be the end of our effort,” said Obama, while denouncing the many delays veterans have experienced in receiving health care. “We have to make sure the VA system can keep pace with the new demands.”
The new measure, which will pump $16.3 billion into the VA, will allow them to hire thousands of nurses, doctors, and other health professionals for the hundreds of VA clinics and hospitals throughout the country. It will also allow 27 new VA clinics to open up shop. The law also improves employee termination rules, which previously made it difficult to fire VA executives on the grounds of poor performance or negligence.
About $10 billion from the bill is earmarked as emergency funding for paying private doctors to treat qualifying veterans who have not been able to get appointments with the VA, or who live more than 40 miles from a treatment center.
The bill received strong bipartisan support, passing quickly through the House and Senate. The VA itself has been taking numerous aggressive measures during the past several months in order to address the problems plaguing it and the services it is intended to provide. Obama says there has been progress in addressing the disability backlog, and that they have been working to improve access to education through the post-9/11 GI bill.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that dozens of veterans had died or were dying as a result of delayed diagnosis and treatment for various ailments. As the veteran population continues to age, many veterans need help for issues like heart disease, disabilities, and cancer. Many veterans exposed to chemicals during the Gulf War are now requesting cancer treatment and assistance for lung problems as a result. The VA has previously denied or delayed numerous healthcare requests from recent veterans of the Afghanistan, Iraq, and Gulf war.