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)

Recent Headlines

in National, World

U.S. deploying special force to boost fight against Islamic State


A specialized expeditionary targeting force will help Iraq put additional pressure on Islamic State and be positioned to conduct operations into Syria.

in Local Sports

Eastern Washington’s Kupp to return for senior season

Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp

Kupp caught 114 passes for 1,642 yards and 19 touchdowns this season.

in Local Sports

H.S. b-ball action begins for handful of Whatcom County teams

kpug prep high school

Lynden Christian boys and girls get wins over Anacortes

in Local Sports

Clippers have too much for Trailblazers

Diageo, the world's leading premium drinks business, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) today announced a new multiyear marketing partnership that will make Diageo the exclusive spirits partner of the league. (PRNewsFoto/Diageo) THIS CONTENT IS PROVIDED BY PRNewsfoto and is for EDITORIAL USE ONLY**

Griffin 23 points, Jordan 24 boards for Clips

in Entertainment, Viral Videos

Sleeping Santa makes Christmas pics a snap


Santa Claus won't be stopped by a sleeping baby boy. He'll improvise!