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Senate Advances Bill to Cut VA Health Care Delays

The Senate on Wednesday passed legislation aimed at giving veterans more options in seeking medical care.
Image: Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center is pictured in Phoenix
The Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center is pictured in Phoenix, Arizona June 11, 2014. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents will investigate allegations of wrongdoing at an Arizona office of the Veterans Affairs department that became a political problem for President Barack Obama and forced the VA chief to resign. On Monday, the VA released an internal audit that found more than 100,000 veterans were subjected to a wait of 90 days or more for healthcare appointments, and widespread instances of schemes to mask the delays to meet targets for bonuses. SAMANTHA SAIS / Reuters

The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation aimed at giving veterans more options for medical care in an effort to cut down on the delays in treatment that have plagued Veterans Affairs facilities throughout the country.

The bipartisan legislation would allow some veterans to receive treatment from private doctors and also calls for the expansion of VA medical facilities throughout the country. The bill also gives the Obama administration increased firing power.

The House passed a similar bill on Tuesday, and lawmakers were hopeful the minor differences could quickly be reconciled.

Addressing the failing VA health system became a priority for Congress after reports that veterans died in a VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., while waiting for care. An report from the VA’s inspector general supported the reports and found widespread problems for veterans seeking medical care in facilities across the U.S.

Earlier on Wednesday FBI Director James Comey told Congress the agency opened a criminal investigation into the VA.

“I don't think this is the end of the discussion regarding the needs of veterans,” Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who helped broker the bipartisan legislation, said ahead of the vote.