Senators reach bipartisan framework to allow more veterans get health care outside of VA

DENVER - Colorado lawmakers and veterans are tracking a new federal bill introduced after a scandal and service problems at the Veterans Administration and its health care facilities.

The Senate reached agreement for a bipartisan bill expanding veterans' ability to get government-paid medical care outside Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics.

The framework agreement was announced Thursday on the Senate floor by Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders and Republican Sen. John McCain.

The bill would allow veterans who experience long waits for VA appointments or who live at least 40 mile from a VA hospital or clinic to use private doctors enrolled as providers for Medicare or other government programs.

The bill's goal is to address an uproar over veterans' health care following reports veterans have died while waiting to see a VA doctor.

"It's going to take a lot of listening, a lot of listening by the VA to make everything right," said Denver area veteran Don Hall who had problems with a VA clinic in Golden.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colorado, served in Iraq and sits on veteran-related committees. Like Hall, he feels the culture of the VA needs to change.

"What do you say to a veteran today who is still concerned about the quality of health care they're going to get?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart.

"They ought to be concerned. They need to be vigilant," said Coffman.

The legislation is described a bipartisan.

"Senator Bennet will review this proposal. He is encouraged by the bipartisan agreement, specifically language that seems to indicate veterans in rural areas will be able to go outside the VA system to see a doctor of their choice, flexibility that is key for many of Colorado's veterans who live hundreds of miles away from VA facilities," said Kristin Lynch, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado.

The legislation includes for the construction of new facilities, however Colorado is not on the list.

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