Congress has passed compromised legislation to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) amid investigations into misconduct and medical care delays, including secret wait lists. This legislation is a compromise of separate bills passed in the House of Representatives and Senate that includes $17 billion in additional funding to VA and several provisions aimed at improving Veterans’ access to care, such as allowing Veterans to receive care at other medical facilities if faced with delays. The legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan votes in the House on Wednesday, July 30 and the Senate on Thursday, July 31. It will now go to President Obama, where he is expected to swiftly sign it into law.
Several separate measures aimed at reforming VA are still pending before Congress. This includes the House and Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bills, which include ASA-supported Report Language on the proposed VHA Nursing Handbook that would threaten physician-led anesthesia care for Veterans. Specifically, the legislation contains language that provides that as the VA reviews the Nursing Handbook it seek input from both internal and external stakeholders and that it work to ensure that the proposed Nursing Handbook does not conflict with other handbooks already in place, a reference to the Anesthesia Service Handbook. Due to Congressional gridlock, this legislation is currently stalled. ASA leadership and staff continue to monitor VA reform legislation and advocate in support of patient safety.