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Vets health care bill hits roadblock in Congress

The Washington Post

March 21. 2018 9:22PM

Congressional Democrats have blocked — for now — controversial legislation that would offer military veterans more access to for-profit health care at taxpayer expense, a setback to the Trump administration’s legislative agenda.

It’s unclear what will become of the Caring for our Veterans Act, which on Monday appeared to be headed into the budget with a compromise plan supported by the White House and eight major veterans advocacy groups. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., “put the brakes on the legislation,” according to congressional aides in both parties who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks remain sensitive.

Pelosi and other Democrats are concerned that the bill would diminish congressional oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs, that it would go too far in outsourcing care and that it would not address some of the agency’s biggest problems.

“It won’t reduce wait times and won’t make the VA easier to use,” said a House Democratic aide.

The legislation, which is popular within the White House, is a priority for Trump and has become part of the bitter fight over VA Secretary David Shulkin’s standing in the administration.

Shulkin, the only Obama-era holdover in Trump’s Cabinet, has fallen from favor with the White House in part over his reluctance to more fully support outsourcing veterans care.

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., who worked on the compromise last weekend, has requested a conversation with Pelosi, “though that conversation has not yet taken place to my knowledge,” an aide in Roe’s office said Tuesday evening.

Roe’s aide said the congressman addressed some of Pelosi’s concerns in a letter urging her to support the legislation. The letter outlines the extensive work lawmakers performed in coordination with veterans groups and other stakeholders, and says the compromise went through “rigorous” review.

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