WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R- Neb.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today voted for bipartisan legislation to improve transparency and accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It also authorizes a lease for a new VA community based outpatient clinic in Lincoln, Neb., and includes a Johanns-backed provision giving veterans greater flexibility when seeking medical treatment.
“Our country has long-promised to provide support and care for our veterans who have given so much for our nation,” Johanns said. “By passing this legislation, the Senate is sending the unified message that we have not forgotten that promise. The unacceptable lack of access to care at the VA constitutes an emergency, and as such, emergency measures were required to ensure our veterans aren’t left waiting for care any longer.”
The legislation, which passed the Senate, was introduced by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and sponsored by Johanns. It includes provisions to:
· Allow veterans whose wait times for VA appointments exceed two weeks, or who reside more than 40 miles from a VA medical center or clinic, to seek medical care outside the VA system,
· Grant the VA Secretary authority to demote or fire Senior Executive Service employees for substandard performance,
· Expedite authority to hire more VA doctors and nurses using unobligated VA funds,
· Authorize a lease for a new VA community based outpatient clinic in Lincoln, Neb.,
· Improve health care access for military sexual assault survivors, and
· Install task forces to review and recommend improvements to VA scheduling processes.