WASHINGTON — House and Senate negotiators have reached a tentative agreement to deal with the long-term needs of the struggling Department of Veterans Affairs and plan to unveil their proposal today.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Pensacola, who lead the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs committees, continued negotiating over the weekend. Aides said they made significant progress on legislation to overhaul the VA and provide funding to hire more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.
Aides said that Sanders and Miller had worked out final language on the agreement, which would be circulated among lawmakers ahead of the formal announcement today. One House aide, not authorized to speak publicly about the talks, told the Washington Post that the final agreement more closely mirrors a Senate measure overwhelmingly approved by Democrats and Republicans last month.
A final cost of the far-reaching measure was not available Sunday but is expected to be critical to determining whether the legislation will enjoy the support of House Republicans, many of whom have been concerned about dramatically increasing costs for government-run programs.
According to a draft summary of the measure provided by House aides, Congress would give eligible military veterans a "Veterans Choice Card" and allow them to seek health care outside the VA medical system from Medicare-eligible providers, other federally qualified health centers or facilities operated by the Defense Department or federal Indian Health Service centers.
Word of a deal comes with just four legislative days left until Congress is scheduled to adjourn for a five-week recess Friday.