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

in Local

Judge Rejects Ebola Quarantine for Nurse

KACI-HICKOX-facebook

FORT KENT, Maine (AP) _ A Maine judge has rejected a bid by state health officials to restrict the movement of nurse Kaci Hickox, who defied a quarantine for medical workers who have treated Ebola patients.

in Local

Big Boost in Large Donors in Maine Governor’s Race

GENERIC MONEY LARGE

A Maine group seeking to boost public funding for campaigns says that contributions from large donors in this year's governor's race have skyrocketed since 2010.

in Local

Handcuffed Man who Escaped from Cruiser Caught

GENERIC ARREST

Police say they have captured a man who jumped out of a state police cruiser and escaped into the woods after his arrest in Chelsea earlier this week.

in Local

Portland, Gloucester Tie as New England Fish Ports

GENERIC FISHING NET

A federal report says Portland, Maine and Gloucester, Massachusetts, are now tied for second place in New England in volume of commercial fish landed.

in Local

Canadian Company to Buy Rumford, Maine Paper Mill

GENERIC PAPER MILL LARGE

A Canadian company is entering into an agreement to buy the Rumford Paper Co. mill.

Tweets

  • 6h
  • 6h
  • 9h
  • 10h
  • 10h
  • 10h
  • 10h