CRAIG FINDS MORE SUPPORT FOR HIS VETERANS HEALTH CARE EMPOWERMENT LEGISLATION
Just over two weeks ago U.S. Senator Larry Craig introduced historic new legislation (S. 815) which would enable veterans with service-connected disabilities to receive medical treatment outside the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Today he had the opportunity to discuss it more with his colleagues at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, where he picked up support for the bill.
"I know that VA is the system of choice for millions of our veterans. I say system of choice' because I know that over three million veterans have other options for health care - such as Medicare, TRICARE, or private insurance. But they still choose VA," said Craig.
"I think they should also have the power to say, If you don't treat me right or if someone else can provide me with better medical service, I'll go somewhere else.' And I have introduced legislation that would provide our service-disabled veterans with that power."
During the hearing, the Idaho Republican asked the Director of the state of Illinois' Department of Veterans' Affairs what she thought about the goal of his bill.
"I certainly would support that, however, not at the expense of more funds going the VA," said Tammy Duckworth, the director of the state of Illinois' Department of Veterans' Affairs, and a double amputee who was injured when the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting in the current conflict was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. "At the same time as that funding, we also need access to private practices."
Under Craig's watch as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, spending on the Department of Veterans Affairs increased by $12 billion. The Idaho Republican has indicated his support for spending even more on VA's health care system next year.
"Tammy and I may not agree on every detail, but I'm pleased that she appears to support the goal I have, which is to make sure that our veterans with service-connected injuries can be seen by the best doctors in the country, whether they work for the VA or not," Craig said.
Craig's legislation now has the cosponsorship of Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, and others senators have expressed interest in cosponsoring the legislation.
"There is no time to catch up. There is a huge private sector capability that is needed now, today. It was needed yesterday," Craig said.