Tentative agreement reached on U.S. veterans’ funding bill

Tentative agreement reached on U.S. veterans’ funding bill

Senator-elect Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is interviewed in his office in Burlington, Vermont on November 28, 2006. Photo: Reuters/Bryan Snyder

By Peter Cooney

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A tentative agreement has been reached by the chairmen of the U.S. Senate and House veterans committees on legislation aimed at resolving the Veterans Affairs healthcare crisis, their spokesmen said on Sunday.

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who heads the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and his House counterpart, Republican Representative Jeff Miller, will outline the agreement at a news conference at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, their spokesmen said.

“Miller and Sanders continued negotiations on a VA reform package this weekend and made significant progress toward an agreement on legislation to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals,” their offices said in a statement.

The VA has been rocked by a scandal over cover-ups of months-long waiting times for medical appointments at its clinics and hospitals across the country. In Phoenix, doctors have alleged that some 40 veterans died as their names languished on secret waiting lists while officials misrepresented wait-time data to meet targets for bonus compensation.

The controversy led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in late May.

With time winding down before Congress begins a five-week recess on Friday, pressure has been building to reach a deal on a measure aimed at eliminating long waiting lists at VA hospitals and clinics.

Negotiations on the measure had broken down last week as Sanders and Miller rolled out competing proposals with a $15 billion gap between them.

The proposal introduced by Sanders on Thursday would provide less than $25 billion in new funds for VA healthcare, with $3.3 billion offset by other savings in the department’s budget.

Miller came back with a plan for $10 billion in emergency funds, with other budget needs to be settled in the fiscal 2015 VA spending bill later this year.

(Reporting by Peter Cooney; Additional reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Recent Headlines

in National

Police arrest gunman after fatal siege at Colorado abortion clinic


Police arrested a gunman who stormed a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Colorado Springs.

in Black Friday, Lifestyle, National

Black Friday crowds thin in subdued start to holiday shopping


America's annual Black Friday shopping extravaganza was short on fireworks this year.

in Sports

The weekend sports schedule


From the Associated Press, here’s a look at some of this weekend’s major sporting events. All times are listed in…

in National

Making headlines this week

Santa Claus participates in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP)

A look at some of this week's biggest newsmakers and the headlines you may have missed.

in Sports

Cowboys’ Romo ‘done for season’


Dallas Cowboys veteran quarterback Tony Romo will miss the rest of the National Football League season after re-injuring his collarbone for the second time in 10 weeks, according to an ESPN report.