The VA healthcare legislation passed by Congress was signed into law by President Obama earlier today, and it represents one of the most comprehensive and bipartisan pieces of legislation passed into law by the 113th Congress. The legislation was finalized by U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, along with Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and other members of the conference committee tasked with reconciling House and Senate bills.

The final legislative package put forth by Michaud, Miller, Sanders and the other conference committee members attracted enormous bipartisan support: the bill passed the House by an overwhelming 420 – 5 vote; and by an equally impressive margin in the Senate: 93 – 3.

The new law addresses several of the most pressing challenges within the VA: wait time and accountability. The law:

  • Provides $10 billion for veterans to receive care at non-VA facilities if they cannot receive an appointment at their local VA within 30 days; or if their local VA is more than 40 miles from their home.
  • Provides $5 billion to attract new doctors and other medical staff, increasing the Department’s infrastructure and capacity to absorb new patients.
  • Calls for a comprehensive review of VA medical services and establishes a Congressional Commission on Care to evaluate access to care throughout the VA healthcare system.
  • Improves the delivery of care to veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma; as well as care for Native Hawaiian and Native American veterans.
  • Slashes funding for bonuses available to VA employees by $40 million each year for the next decade.

Rep. Michaud included several key provisions in the legislation, including:

  • The extension of stricter accountability measures to approximately 80,000 Title 38 employees across the VA senior leadership. The provision comes from a bill Michaud originally proposed in the spring, which makes it easier for the Secretary to take action against VA senior leaders who are responsible for poor outcomes or wrongdoing.
  • The renewal of Project ARCH (Access Received Closer to Home) for Northern Maine and four other communities across the country. ARCH allows veterans to receive care close to home, without making long journeys to VA facilities. Michaud met with both Rep. Miller and Sen. Sanders prior to the conference committee to ensure ARCH’s renewal. Without Congressional action, ARCH would have expired at the end of next month.

Video of President Obama thanking Rep. Michaud and other Members of Congress for their leadership on the legislation is available online here.

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