published Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Tennessee Sen. Alexander signs onto bill giving veterans more medical options besides VA

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is joining a group of Republican senators to cosponsor a bill that seeks to give more veterans flexibility in what doctors or health facilities they use.

The bill is part of a continued reaction from Capitol Hill to revelations of widespread misconduct at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities, including massive wait times for primary care appointments.

Alexander, R-Tenn., announced Tuesday that the bill, introduced by North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, giving veterans the choice to use private doctors as alternatives to medical facilities if the VA cannot schedule an appointment for a veteran “within a reasonable period of time” or if the veteran lives more than 40 miles from any VA hospitals and clinics.

“This begins to give veterans the same choices for their health care that our country has given them for higher education since the G.I. Bill was enacted in 1944,” Alexander said in a statement.

The VA spent about $4.8 billion last year on medical care at non-VA hospitals and clinics, about 10 percent of health care costs for the Veterans Health Administration, The Associated Press reported.

The legislation is intended to be an alternative to other VA-reform legislation introduced this week by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

A version of the bill introduced by Sanders earlier this year was voted down, and included no-votes from both Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

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