Your daily veterans news for Wednesday, August 6:
VA reform bill preserves employee bonuses (Stars & Stripes)
The bill includes a compromise by House and Senate lawmakers allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue handing out up to $360 million in employee performance awards each year as it attempts to overhaul its health care system and ease chronically long patient wait times.
VA deputy secretary: More employees will be disciplined (Stars & Stripes)
More Veterans Administration employees will be disciplined as the department sorts out a scandal over long waits for health care and falsified data, Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson said Tuesday. The VA announced last week that it planned to fire two supervisors and discipline four other employees in Colorado and Wyoming accused of falsifying health-care data.
VA secretary calls for town hall meetings (Marine Times)
New Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald has ordered town hall meetings at all department health and benefits facilities by the end of September, in an effort to better understand veterans’ complaints about services. In a message to staff Tuesday, McDonald said the meetings are designed to gather feedback from veterans and their families, but will also be open to lawmakers, veterans groups and other local individuals who work with the facilities.
VA: No New Mexico patient deaths linked to wait times (Santa Fe New Mexican)
A review by the New Mexico Veterans Affairs health care system has found no link between the deaths of dozens of veterans and their place on the waiting list for medical care. Amid an investigation into lapses in care, the New Mexico VA initially identified 21 people who died while waiting to see a doctor. Officials promised to investigate each case to determine whether any of the deaths were related to a lack of care or delays in seeing a doctor.
VA scrambles to create private care alternative (Fox News)
The bipartisan overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs approved last week by Congress has touched off a race against the clock, as the agency now is tasked with setting up a private health care alternative for veterans within 90 days. Whether the already-struggling VA can meet that deadline remains to be seen. But Congress set an ambitious timetable in the bill when it gave the VA three months to create a system where veterans enduring long waits can go outside the VA system for care.
Veterans groups: Making VA reform work is the real test (Newsmax)
Passage of a bill reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs is beginning to look like the easy part, veterans groups say, adding that what may be “pretty tough” is meeting looming deadlines to ensure the new law’s key element – a private health care option – is working.