Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 6, 2015

In Wake of VA Scandal, McCain Proposes Private Health Option for Veterans

McCain (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McCain is planning a bill that would let veterans bypass the VA for health care. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John McCain accused President Barack Obama of attempting “damage control” Wednesday when he made a statement about the a scandal at the VA involving allegations of manipulated wait time reports.

The comments by the Arizona Republican, whose home state has been at the epicenter of the controversy, came along with an announcement about new legislation designed to permit veterans greater freedom to seek treatment away from facilities run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“What did the president say today? Not much. Three weeks after … this scandal broke, the allegations of the most serious kind, that 40 people died unnecessarily because of malpractice or whatever you want to call it at the VA hospital [in Phoenix]. And now, allegations coming in from all over the country. There are 26 different VA hospitals where charges have been made,” McCain told a radio station back in Arizona. “What is the president doing? He’s sending down one of his political operatives to Phoenix, when he should be sending veterans’ service organizations people, key veterans and people with military as well as VA experience.”

McCain said that three GOP senators are drafting legislation to allow veterans to access health care services outside the traditional VA system. The move comes amid increasing the ongoing criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the VA scandal in Phoenix and elsewhere.

“It seems that, to me, that he’s just engaged in damage control rather than really trying to get at the root of the problem,” McCain said of Obama.

McCain told KYFI radio in Phoenix that he was working to develop the bill with a pair of fellow Republicans: Senate Veterans’ Affairs ranking member Richard M. Burr and Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

“In the long term … let’s let our veterans choose the health care that they need and want the most and not have to be bound to just going to the VA. The VA is great on traumatic brain injury, PTSD, war wounds, prosthesis and all that, but other than that why wouldn’t a veteran who has served his country honorably be able, that lives away from Phoenix, maybe hours away, not be able to go to the health care provider of his or her choice,” McCain said.

“Sen. Coburn, Sen. Burr and I will be introducing a comprehensive bill,” he said. “Time is not, obviously, not on our side, nor on the side of the literally the lives of the men and women who have served. … I would give it a crash program.”

While details are not yet available, McCain said to expect introduction of the legislation after the Senate returns from its weeklong Memorial Day recess, adding that a lack of urgency on Capitol Hill could put some of the blame on the legislative branch going forward. It is not clear when veterans’ issues will next make the Senate schedule, though the appropriations bill that funds VA programs is moving along.

“Unless we do something, then the onus is, is on us in Congress,” McCain said. “After we fix it, let’s hold the people responsible who caused this problem.”

He said the White House would play a key rule in moving quickly, however.

“We’ve got to get agreement from the president. Did you see one concrete proposal that the president had today? Not a one,” McCain said. “I didn’t hear one.”

Obama spoke to reporters in the White House briefing room earlier Wednesday, demanding improvements from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and vowing to fix problems at the VA.

Comments (89)

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  1. DrSquishy

    May 21, 2014
    11:47 p.m.

    Democrats won’t support it.

  2. Layla

    May 22, 2014
    3:17 p.m.

    Democrats won’t support anything that gives veterans the right to be treated like normal Americans. Our illegals receive better care.

    Veterans should have the very same care Congress has. Anyone who thinks that a single payer government healthcare system is the answer to our healthcare problems needs to spend some time in a VA hospital, try scheduling VA doctors appointments.

    What took you so long to discuss this, Senator McCain? You and all others serving in Congress have known the current system has been providing lousy service and failing for years.

    Shame on every last one of you. Today NOTHING has changed for these brave men and women.

    America, it is long past time to vote this Congress out.

  3. big black

    May 23, 2014
    8:20 a.m.

    why would Americans support the reform this guy saying. The plan somes at an expense using your Compassation benfits to pay for private care.

  4. Jerald

    May 23, 2014
    10:47 a.m.

    I agree 100 percent with John McCain here.

  5. Charles Dunstan

    May 25, 2014
    11:45 p.m.

    Put them in the ACA :)

  6. Jonathan Leibowitz

    May 27, 2014
    11:10 a.m.

    In related YouTube video, we find the liar-in-chief, Hussein Obama, lying to the face of the American people about keeping their insurance and their doctor:

  7. Richard Levine

    May 31, 2014
    8:43 p.m.

    There’s been a knee-jerk, hysteria reaction before the full results of the allegations are in. Much of the VA healthcare functions from good to excellent and on par with civilian healthcare. A shortage of doctors is negatively impacting both the VA and civilian systems. There were red flags regarding Obamacare exacerbating the doctor shortage by adding millions of new patients, but the President and the Democrats did not heed this advice, and have caused yet another disaster to another major sector of the economy. There are many good people working for the VA who should not be condemned because of the possibly illegal acts of a few of the management. Those responsible should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I am a Vietnam era veteran and am receiving excellent service in the NY, and formerly NJ VA healthcare systems.

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