Veteran Advocates encouraged by $17B VA reform bill - CBS 5 - KPHO

Veteran Advocates encouraged by $17B VA reform bill

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Lawmakers in Washington have reached a compromise to address the current Veterans' Affairs crisis.

The proposal could pave the way for major changes, intended to improve patient care.

The troubled Veterans Affairs healthcare system has been under scrutiny since April, following allegations of widespread corruption, falsifying records, and delays in patient care that may have resulted in the deaths of more than 40 veterans.

The $19 billion VA reform bill calls for $10 billion to be used for private healthcare providers that vets can use if they can't get an appointment in a timely manner, or live more than 40 miles from a VA Center.

Around $5 billion would be used to hire more doctors nurses and improve facilities.

Around $1.5 billion would be used to lease 27 new medical facilities across the country.

Dr. Sam Foote is the original whistle-blower, who brought the VA problems to light.

He told CBS 5 News that the proposal from Washington is a step in the right direction.

"Let's just say it's a lot more pleasant to be talking about solutions that are going to be implemented than trying to defend your reputation against slurs, and being called a liar, or that you are crazy and there is no problem and there is no secret list," Foote said.

Dan Caldwell, with Concerned Veterans for America, said it's not time to celebrate yet.

Caldwell told CBS 5 News that he is pleased with the latest events out of Washington, but he wants to see the people who created the VA mess in the first place, held accountable.

"They haven't fired anyone," Caldwell said. "You have people resign who were already set to retire, but there really hasn't been anyone fired. Sharon Hellman is still on the VA payroll and her deputies, Lance Robinson and Brad Curry, are still on the VA payroll."

Foote said another key element to the VA reform bill is that it would give the VA secretary new authority to fire or demote senior officials - something veterans and doctors insist has to happen to change the culture of how things are done within the VA healthcare system.

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