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Obama Signs Veterans Reform Bill Into Law

Phoenix VA hospital
(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ)
Phoenix VA hospital.

President Barack Obama signed a Veterans Affairs Reform Bill on Thursday. The law comes after secret waiting lists in several VA hospitals were discovered this spring. 

 The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Actwill cost more than $16 billion over three years. It is designed to allow vets to get appointments more quickly and to change the culture of the VA.  President Obama said this law addresses the most immediate problems with the system.

“We are moving ahead with urgent reforms including stronger management and leadership and oversight. And we are instituting a critical culture of accountability. Rebuilding our leadership team starting from the top with Secretary McDonald,” Obama said. 

The law gives new VA Secretary Bob McDonald more power to fire senior administrators. It also allows veterans to go to private doctors if the wait at the VA is longer than a month and/or the closest health care clinic is more than 40 miles away.  

“It’s going to enable more rural veterans that have to use the Phoenix VA to get healthcare within their own communities. I think that is going to help take a burden off the Phoenix VA,” said Dan Caldwell, the legislative campaign manager of Concerned Veterans for America. 

The law also allocates $5 billion to hire more medical staff to deal with growing demand.  

Alexandra Olgin was a Senior Field Correspondent at KJZZ from 2013 to 2016.