WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, has voted against a $52 billion reform bill for veterans’ health care that gives desperate patients increased access to private doctors and private hospitals.
The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved the VA Mission Act by a 92-5 vote following easy passage last week in the U.S. House.
Sanders was one of only five senators to vote against medical help for veterans just days before Memorial Day. The other senators to vote against the bill were Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Mike Rounds, R-S.D.; and Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill in what is certain to be viewed as one of his top legislative achievements.
Sanders opposed the bill in part because it allows vets to get care from private doctors and hospitals as part of a trend toward privatizing the VA system.
“I am concerned, however, that despite some very good provisions in this bill, it continues a trend toward the slow, steady privatization of the VA,” he said in a statement.
The occasion of the bill has been long wait times at VA hospitals that have led to the untimely deaths of vets needing immediate attention.
“The way to reduce wait times is to make sure that the VA is able to fill the more than 30,000 vacancies it currently has,” Sanders said. “This bill provides $5 billion for the Choice program. It provides nothing to fill the vacancies at the VA.”
Sanders nevertheless praised parts of the bill, including expanding the Caregivers program to veterans of all generations. He also said he supports raising the limits on the Education Debt Reduction Program, which Sanders helped lead.
The embattled VA is still overshadowed by the 2014 scandal in which hospitals were exposed for manipulating wait-time data. The goal for VA appointments was 14 days from a call for service, but much longer wait times were leading to unnecessary deaths.
Amid the fallout was the creation of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Choice program, which is being extended an extra year under the VA Mission Act.
The bill also includes a call to review the VA’s old infrastructure. Last year, former Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi warned lawmakers that without upgrading its aging infrastructure the program was heading towards failure.
“I don’t think this can be sustained for another 10 to 15 years,” Principi said.
While Sanders joined a small minority of lawmakers to vote against necessary care, many veteran organizations back the legislation. The American Legion, which has 2.4 million members across the nation, has expressed support for the bill.
“This is quite an accomplishment and we’re very proud of it,” Louis Celli, American Legion executive director of Government and Veterans Affairs, said. “And that’s why 38 VSOs signed letters to support this legislation.”
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., is the current chair of the Senate’s veterans panel. He said the bill will “make them contemporary with the 21st century and see to it that the best care, the best attention, and the best legislation is in place.”
This is not the first time Sanders has stepped out on a limb for support of the status quo with VA services. Not long after the 2014 scandal, he gave a number of public statements that appeared to be in defense of the failing system.
Nonetheless, Sanders has always maintained that he’s for the best services possible for veterans.
“I have long believed the cost of war must include the cost of caring for the warrior,” he wrote on his web site. “That is why one of my very highest priorities in Congress is ensuring our nation’s veterans have access to the quality health care and benefits they have earned and were promised.”
Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.
14 thoughts on “Sanders votes against VA health care bill as America honors fallen veterans”
When I was practicing Internal Medicine I had a lot of veterans as patients, though they could get their care for free from the VA. Those who were 65 or otherwise qualified for Medicare could use that coverage in offices like the one I worked in paying only a small co-pay. Many didn’t realize they had that insurance and payment option outside of the VA system.
In case after case I’d find these are patients had been receiving care they didn’t like through the VA. The care I’d see them receiving was too often substandard. The one benefit I’d recommend they use, though, was to get their medications at the VA where they are free!
Bernie seems oblivious to the on the ground realities of the socialist system, devoid of incentive for physicians to do a good job, and patients being at the mercy of an uncaring, unfeeling medical bureaucracy. It may just be that his ends justify the means to the extent that he really doesn’t care about the individual Vermonters his polices hurt.
Why the phobia against the private sector? Does anyone believe a government institution is beyond being corrupt and inefficient? At least users can choose an alternative if a private organization does them dirty. But when a government monopoly does us in, we’re stuck with it. Kind of like we’re stuck with Bernie.
“But when a government monopoly does us in, we’re stuck with it. Kind of like we’re stuck with Bernie.”
You answered your own question,Ah isn’t Socialism/Communism grand.
Mike, thanks for explaining Bernie’s reasons. He’s always been pro vet so I was surprised. I guess he just doesn’t like non socialized medicine.
“I guess he just doesn’t like non socialized medicine.”
Your statement is the key,if it isn’t Socialist/Communist dogma,El Burnmeister is against it no matter who it might help or hurt.
Wonder how many nahs served? As for Bernie, again I ask, “is anyone surprised?”
Bernie was an anti-war, anti military, anti establishment socialist when he moved to Vermont, but before he finally got elected to federal office. Now that he is a federal millionaire, er Senator, ,he is worried that veterans might get care from non-federal sources. Bernie needs to retire to his estate on Lake Champlain before he does any more damage.
I totally agree. His vote against better healthcare choices for veterans tells me that Bernie puts his Socialist ( perhaps even Communist ) ideology above all else, even better health care for our veterans. His vote was disgraceful. Bernie needs to either retire or be voted out of office and sent back to his Lake Champlain “palace” ( rather ironic considering Bernie hates capitalism for everyone but himself and his leftist friends) before he does any more damage. Thank Heavens neither he nor Hillary were elected to the WH.
Gee Bernie, all the Vets want is the same health care options you have !!
They deserve it more than you, as they ” Defended” the Country. All you
have done is ” Fleece ” the country ………….you have No Shame.
You’re a cancer on the State & Nation.
Every once in a while those who pretend to love their country, but don’t, actually show their true colors. Bernie’s vote is one of those times. It’s called the arrogant – stupid gene.
A corrupt, immoral creature.
Bernie the Communist. A liar and a fraud.
“Sanders opposed the bill in part because it allows vets to get care from private doctors and hospitals as part of a trend toward privatizing the VA system.”
Seeing as how El Burnmeister is a proponent of Socialism/Communism,privatizing goes against the grain,to heck with whats in the best interest for the veterans.
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