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House passes VA bill: Legislation now heads to Senate

Last Modified: Thursday, July 31, 2014 12:25 PM

By Lance Traweek / American Press

The U.S. House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a $17 billion veterans health reform package that includes money for Veterans Affairs health clinics in Lake Charles and Lafayette. All Louisiana House members voted for the bill, which passed 420-5.

“Finally our veterans in Lake Charles are seeing forward progress on the clinics that were promised to them years ago. ...,” Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, said in a prepared statement. “I’ll continue watching this agency like a hawk to ensure these projects are ready for construction as soon as possible.”

A bipartisan deal was reached in conference committee late Sunday night. The details of the bill were announced on Monday.

The measure would authorize billions to fix the VA’s health program, which has been tarnished by long patient wait times and misrepresented records.

“This is a good first step in ensuring veterans have choice and flexibility in making these decisions,” Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said in a news release. “Building clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles will make it easier for veterans to receive care.”

The agreement contains $10 billion in emergency spending to make it simpler for veterans who cannot get timely appointments with VA doctors to get outside care; $5 billion to hire medical staff; and $1.5 billion to lease 27 new clinics nationwide.

The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation today. White House press secretary Josh Earnest has said President Barack Obama welcomes the bipartisan deal.

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