Jul 31, 8:52 PM EDT

Congress sends VA overhaul to White House


AP Photo
AP Photo/Uncredited
Politics Video

Multimedia
Home front stories: The toll of war on veterans and family members
Filipino vets who helped U.S. seek benefits
Veterans battle disabilities
Veterans Bond at Homeless Shelter
Mismanagement Allegations Surround Okla. Veterans Colony
Blind Soldier Serves in Special Forces
Report: Outpatient Care for Female Veterans Lags Behind Male Counterparts (PDF)
Veteran Burials Expected to Hit Record High
Programs Reaches Out to Homeless Veterans
Veterans Explain: Who Is a Hero?
Couple channel grief into retreat for veterans

Sanders pleads for VA reform bill as talks stall

Memorial honoring injured veterans under way in DC

VA chief pledges end to whistleblower retaliation

Buy AP Photo Reprints

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress passed a landmark bill Thursday to help veterans avoid long waits for health care and fix other problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A 91-3 vote in the Senate sent the $16.3 billion measure to President Barack Obama for his signature. The House had voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill on Wednesday.

The legislation is a response to reports of veterans dying while awaiting appointments to see VA doctors and cover-ups of the delays at several of the VA's 1,000 hospitals and outpatient clinics.

The bill devotes $10 billion in emergency spending over three years to pay private doctors and other health professionals to care for qualifying veterans who can't get timely appointments at VA hospitals or clinics or who live more than 40 miles from one of them.

It includes $5 billion for hiring more VA doctors, nurses and other medical staff and $1.3 billion to open 27 new VA clinics across the country. In addition, the legislation makes it easier to fire hospital administrators and senior VA executives for negligence or poor performance.

Voting against the bill Thursday were Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Sessions of Alabama. They said they fear the legislation will swell future budget deficits.

---

Follow Matthew Daly: https://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.