News

Obama signs $16B VA bill

Obama signs $16B VA bill

VETERANS AFFAIRS: The plan passed Congress last week and aims to address what Obama on Thursday called "outrageous" misconduct at VA hospitals and clinics that included modifying records of delayed care. Photo: Reuters

By Rebecca Elliott

FORT BELVOIR Va (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama signed a $16.3 billion bill on Thursday designed to provide veterans with more timely medical care and fix problems in the scandal-plagued Veterans Affairs department.

The plan passed Congress last week and aims to address what Obama on Thursday called “outrageous” misconduct at VA hospitals and clinics that included modifying records of delayed care.

“This bill covers a lot of ground – from expanding survivor benefits and educational opportunities, to improving care for veterans struggling with traumatic brain injury and for victims of sexual assault,” Obama said at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, speaking to an audience of service members, veterans, and their families.

The VA was thrust into the spotlight this spring after allegations surfaced that it had covered up the months-long wait times some veterans had to endure before receiving medical care.

Former head of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned in late May as the scandal mounted, and last week the Senate unanimously confirmed former Procter & Gamble Co Chief Executive Officer Robert McDonald.

“As a new generation of veterans returns home from war and transitions into civilian life, we have to make sure the VA system can keep pace with that new demand,” Obama said.

He said there was a new “culture of accountability” at the VA and that disciplinary proceedings to address the cover-up were under way.

“We’ve held people accountable for misconduct. Some have already been relieved of their duties, and investigations are ongoing,” Obama said.

The law sets aside $10 billion for veterans to see private doctors if the wait time for an appointment at a VA facility exceeds 30 days, or the nearest facility is located more than 40 miles (64 km) away.

The package also provides funds for the department to hire additional doctors and nurses, as well as open 27 new medical clinics.

“But I want to be clear about something: This will not and cannot be the end of our effort,” added Obama, who has suffered a political fallout over the scandal after his repeated promises to put a priority on the needs of veterans as he wound down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Before signing the bill, Obama briefly addressed the death of Major General Harold Greene, who was killed on Tuesday in Afghanistan, and reasserted his commitment to caring for service members in the “9/11 Generation.”

“Whether or not this country properly repays their heroism, properly repays their patriotism, their service and their sacrifice, that’s in our hands,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Caren Bohan and Lisa Shumaker)

Latest Headlines

10 hours ago in Local

Man Cleared of DWI Arrested on Same Charge 2 Days Later

police

A Maine man cleared of a drunken driving charge at his trial on Thursday was arrested Saturday morning on a new charge of operating under the influence.

10 hours ago in Local

Maine Police Investigating Shots Fired as Party Was Breaking Up

LEWISTON

Police in Maine are investigating multiple shots being fired as a party in Lewiston was breaking up early Saturday morning.

14 hours ago in Local

Maine Native Taken in NFL Draft

Bates

Trevor Bates of Westbrook, ME was selected by the Indianapolis Colts 239th overall in the seventh-round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

2 days ago in Local

Maine Legislature Votes to Override Drug Antidote Veto

NARCON KIT

The Maine Legislature has voted overwhelmingly to override Maine Gov. Paul LePage's veto of a bill to increase the availability of a drug overdose antidote.

2 days ago in Local

Synthetic Pesticide Task Force Proposed In Portland

Pesticides

Portland City Council's Energy and Sustainability Committee voted in favor of creating a task force to consider restricting the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizer in the city.

Tweets

  • 10h
  • 10h
  • 13h
  • 32h
  • 33h
  • 37h
  • 62h