Last week Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey introduced a bill aimed at resolving systemic problems that led to long wait times at medical facilities run by the Veterans Administration, but today he instead threw his weight behind a different bipartisan VA-fix sponsored by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders and Arizona Republican John McCain.
The Sanders-McCain bill includes a central provision of the Toomey plan – one that would make it easier to fire VA staffers for wrongdoing.
The bipartisan effort also would provide funding to open 26 additional medical facilities in 18 states where veterans had been waiting months for appointments, and Mr. Toomey, a fiscal conservative, says he can get behind that, too. While those facilities are being constructed the bill would require the federal government to pay non-VA providers to care for veterans who otherwise would have to wait more than 14 days for an appointment or who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility.
Lawmakers attention is on the centers because of revelations at VA employees were falsifying records to conceal long wait lists.
The House on Tuesday approved its own fix but it is unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, will allow a vote in his chamber.
“Our veterans deserve solutions, not more partisanship in Washington,” Mr. Toomey said Monday in announcing he would support the Sanders-McCain bill.
“I have said repeatedly that the VA secretary should be able to fire employees whose job performance is unsatisfactory. I have also long held that vets should have the option to obtain care from a private-sector health care provider,” Mr. Toomey said in a written statement. “While this bill is not perfect, I appreciate that these two reforms have been included and am pleased to join Sens. Sanders and McCain.”