An expensive but needed fix for the VA

  • Article by: EDITORIAL , Washington Post
  • Updated: August 1, 2014 - 6:33 PM

Reforms could add billions to the deficit. But, on the bright side, Congress agreed on something.

U.S. House and Senate conferees have agreed on a $17 billion bill to address the scandal over poor health care service at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The legislation is now on a fast track to pass Congress before its August recess.

The bill, attacks the wait-time problem in two ways: It provides $5 billion to hire more doctors and otherwise increase the VA’s capacity, and it offers $10 billion in emergency funds so that some vets can seek care outside the VA system.

The former strikes us as throwing more money into a system that has already proven itself far too inflexible and bureaucratic to adjust to meet demand, hence the awful wait times. The latter component — money to help vets take advantage of a wider range of health care options — seems more promising. Indeed, it could be the germ of the deeper structural reforms that the VA needs.

Meanwhile, the bill could add billions to the deficit, since its authors could agree to only $5 billion in spending reductions elsewhere within the department’s $154 billion budget.

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