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Congressman Engel Says New Law Addresses Issues that Plague VA

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Eliot Engel, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, issued the following statement after President Obama signed The Veterans Access, Choice & Accountability Act of 2014, into law:

“I am very pleased that Congress took decisive action to address the issues that plague the Department of Veterans Affairs. Our veterans should not be forced to wait an unreasonably long time for medical care, and it’s appalling to even think that some have died because of treatment delays.

“The men and women who serve this country in uniform do so with pride. They have sacrificed much for our nation and, at the very least, we should strive to provide them with the care they deserve.

“This law is proof that both chambers of Congress can work together to pass sensible legislation that protects and promotes our national interests. Cooperation is at the very heart of good governance. I would like to see lawmakers work together more closely on other pressing issues when we reconvene in September.”

Background

The Veterans Access, Choice & Accountability Act of 2014 reduces delays by creating a pilot program that enables veterans who have waited at least 30 days for an appointment or who live more than 40 miles from a VA center to obtain care at another medical facility. This bill also allocates additional funding for the VA to hire more specialists and primary care physicians.

The bill increases accountability and oversight by authorizing VA officials to fire or demote senior employees for poor performance or misconduct.  It also requires an independent assessment of VA medical facilities, and establishes a Congressional Commission on Care to evaluate access to treatment throughout the VA health care system. 

Additionally, the bill improves education benefits for veterans and dependents by requiring public colleges receiving G.I. Bill payments to provide in-state tuition to veterans and eligible dependents, and by providing full benefits to spouses of service members who died in the line of duty after September 11, 2001.

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