A proposal leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives hope will provide better service to veterans in need of medical care was finalized during the weekend. Lawmakers in both houses are expected to consider it this week.
In all likelihood the plan - with no price tag reported yet - will be adopted. Lawmakers are eager to do something in response to the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal.
Included in the proposal are 27 brand-new VA health care facilities, most of them outpatient clinics. Also recommended are hiring of new VA doctors and a plan to allow veterans to seek treatment in the private sector if the VA cannot provide it in a reasonable amount of time.
House leadership indicated a vote could have come Wednesday, one day after the Senate confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald to lead the sprawling agency, which provides health care to nearly 9 million enrolled veterans and disability compensation to nearly 4 million veterans.
McDonald, 61, of Cincinnati, will replace Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, who took over in May after Eric Shinseki resigned amid a growing uproar over reports of long veterans' waits for health care and VA workers falsifying records to cover up delays.
McDonald has pledged to transform the VA and promised that "systematic failures" must be addressed. He said improving patient access to health care was a top priority, along with restoring transparency, accountability and integrity to the VA.
It sounds good - though simply throwing money at the problem, in this case, $17 billion, without addressing the underlying challenge of irresponsible, sometimes dishonest VA officials is not acceptable.
If Congress approves the measure, it should not merely enact a law, provide more money, then ignore the VA for several years until another scandal erupts. This time, results simply must be demanded.