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Veterans' Affairs Chairman Proposes Private Option for Veterans Stuck on VA Wait Lists

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Veterans' Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller wants veterans stuck on VA waiting lists to get health care for more than 30 days to have the option of getting private health care.  

In a letter to Eric Shinseki, the Florida Republican urged the Veterans Affairs secretary to offer private care to any veteran waiting more than 30 days, and plans to offer legislation codifying the practice.  

"Mr. Secretary, the accusations currently facing the Department — which increase in volume and gravity by the hour — have understandably led to a crisis of confidence on the part of many of our veterans who no longer feel that VA is willing and able to provide them with the timely care they have earned and deserved," Miller wrote in a one-page letter to Shinseki on Thursday.  

The Florida Republican said while he hopes Shinseki acts accordingly, "I cannot be satisfied with a short-term fix." "To that end, I will be introducing legislation in the next week that will require that any veteran who is unable to obtain a VA appointment within 30 days of application, be offered the option to receive non-VA care," Miller said.  

He also requested that the Veterans Affairs Department notify Congress if it needs additional funds to offer this sort of expanded care.  

No word yet on exactly when Miller will introduce a bill to allow veterans to go outside of VA medical facilities for health care, but with veterans issues suddenly at the forefront of the congressional conversation, the House could move swiftly to approve Miller's proposal.  

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has also proposed giving veterans a private option. And meanwhile, Senate Veterans Affairs Chairman Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., announced Friday he is writing a new VA accountability bill in consultation with the White House.