Congress, prompted by the ongoing Veterans Affairs care scandal, moved with uncharacteristic haste last week to overwhelmingly pass measures in both the House and Senate designed to make it easier for veterans to access care in the private sector.
How the legislation, which could cost $50 billion a year according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate, will be paid for, however, is a question without an easy answer since Republicans and Democrats are likely to balk at some of the more obvious options.
The House passed its measure June 10, the Senate acted the following day. The two bills are largely the same; they would allow veterans to visit private doctors at the VA's expense if they are unable to get an appointment in a timely manner or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. They each also have language that the federal agency will reimburse no more than Medicare rates for care provided and both also give the VA secretary more power to fire or demote employees for poor performance.