Bill would expand veterans’ access to care outside VA facilities.
The House on Tuesday unanimously approved a measure that would ban bonuses for all Veterans Affairs Department employees for the next three years.
The Veterans Access to Care Act would allow veterans experiencing long waits for an appointment at a VA facility, or those who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, access to private health care at the agency’s expense. It would also prohibit bonuses for the entire VA workforce -- more than 340,000 employees -- for 2014 through 2016.
The House has made several attempts to restrict, to varying degrees, bonuses for VA workers; the latest measure, introduced by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., goes significantly further than previous efforts, however.
The chamber voted in October to cut bonuses for all VA employees by 14 percent for five years, in February to ban bonuses completely for agency senior executives for five years and in May to prohibit Senior Executive Service bonuses in 2015. The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved a measure last month to ban bonuses in 2015 for Veterans Health Administration medical directors, assistant medical directors and SES workers.
Shortly before his resignation, former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced no VHA senior executives would receive bonuses this year.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are currently drafting legislation that would largely mirror the access to private care provision of the House bill. The increased access would sunset after two years in both versions of the legislation, though the Senate bill does not address bonuses.