08.01.14

U.S. Senator Baldwin Votes for Veterans Affairs Reform Legislation That Passes Senate with Strong Bipartisan Support

Washington D.C. – Last night, U.S Senator Tammy Baldwin voted for bipartisan reform legislation to bring accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs and to expand veterans’ access to timely and quality health care.

“Our brave men and women in uniform make great sacrifices on our behalf. I believe we have a shared responsibility to ensure that when they return home, they have access to the care they need and the benefits they’ve earned and deserve,” said Senator Baldwin. “Today we took bipartisan action to bring accountability to the VA and make needed improvements to the delivery of veterans’ health care.”

The bipartisan VA reform bill, authored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), includes the following provisions, among others:

  • Provides authority to the VA to quickly remove and replace officials found to have been involved in any mishandling of veteran medical care or exhibiting poor job performance.
  • Allows veterans to see private doctors outside of the VA system if they experience long wait times or live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility.
  • Improves the delivery of care to veterans who experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military.
  • Allows all veterans to qualify for in-state tuition under the Post 9/11 GI bill.
  • Extends a program, which is about to expire, that provides housing for veterans who are struggling with traumatic brain injury.

A provision modeled after Senator Baldwin’s bill to help address the serious physician shortage within VA has been included in the legislation. Baldwin’s bill, the Veterans Affairs Health Workforce Enhancement Act, addresses the serious physician shortage within the VA that keeps veterans waiting far too long for care. Specifically, Baldwin’s bill increases the number of VA Graduate Medical Education (GME) positions in needed specialties, including primary care and mental health.

“I offered legislation to strengthen our VA health care workforce by increasing residency positions. So I am pleased that a provision modeled after my legislation has been included in the bipartisan compromise that has passed both the House and the Senate,” said Baldwin. “We must address the unacceptable wait times our veterans are experiencing and my legislation will help guarantee our veterans receive high quality health care in a timely manner. As this provision is implemented, I will work with the VA to ensure that Wisconsin VA facilities—through existing and new partnerships with local medical schools—have the opportunity to host additional residency positions.”

The bipartisan VA reform legislation that passed the House and Senate this week increases GME redsidents by not less than 1,500, allocating the positions among the five occupations of health care providers with the largest staffing shortages as determined by the VA Office of Inspector General. This strengthens the VA health care system by enhancing the capacity of the VA to train more physicians and helps increase the number of physicians with experience in veteran care, which would help retain and recruit post-residency physicians to practice in the VA.

Baldwin was also a co-sponsor of the bipartisan Ensuring Veterans Access to Care Act, which passed the Senate 93-6 in June and was the base for the compromise VA reform bill that passed the Senate today.  In addition, Baldwin cosponsored bipartisan legislation, the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014.