Senate Passes Bill to Cut VA Health Care Delays

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By Matthew Searcy
By Randy Livingston

WSIL -- The US Senate has approved a bill making it easier for veterans to receive medical treatment. 

The measure would allow veterans who have endured long wait times at VA medical centers to receive treatment from local doctors instead.
 
Carbondale veteran Jack Wilson supports the plan. He has been dealing with foot problems since leaving the military in 2007.
 
"It's with my left achilles tendon," said Wilson. "I have two screws in there."
 
He tore his achilles during military training. The injury required surgery while Wilson was on active duty, but follow-up appointments to remove the screws have been denied. 
 
"I got out of the army and they said that they couldn't do anything for me because I'm not active duty anymore," explained Wilson.
 
Wilson says he's been battling the issue for years. 
 
"It feels like I get slapped in the face because I did my time. I got honorable discharge, I got all types of awards," said Wilson. "But they are treating me like it's whatever." 
 
A new bill in the US Senate may soon help veterans like Wilson. The measure would allow vets to receive VA-paid treatment from local doctors. 
 
"I think it's a great idea because obviously there are huge backlogs at some the VA institutions," said Carbondale doctor Ronald Mings. 
 
Under the bill, veterans can opt to see civilian doctors if they live more than 40 miles from a VA clinic or if they were forced to wait more than 30 days to see a VA physician.
 
"They may not be emergency situations, but many times the veterans have an urgent problem that you don't want to wait 3 to 4 months to see a specialist," explained Mings.  
 
The government would spend $35 billion over three years to pay for the outside care. The plan would help reduce pressure on VA institutions,  but could cause backlogs for local doctors.  
 
"You have to realize we have a shortage of doctors in this country, so it depends on how many veterans are immediately starting to seek help," said Mings. "There may be a problem getting in to see primary doctors." 
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