WASHINGTON, June 5 (UPI) -- Senators sponsoring competing bills aimed at addressing mismanagement within the veterans' healthcare system hammered out a deal Thursday to unify their efforts.
Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and John McCain, R-Ariz., announced an agreement for a package of legislation that would authorize a two-year trial program to allow veterans to seek private care if they are unable to get the necessary VA care within a reasonable time and gives the VA secretary more authority to fire senior officials.
The package would also approve the construction of 26 new major medical facilities in 18 states and puts $500 million in undesignated funds toward hiring new doctors and other health care staff.
"Reaching a compromise among people who look at the world very different is not easy," Sanders said on the Senate floor Thursday. "But right now we have a crisis on our hands and it is imperative that we deal with that crisis."
Sanders had announced a bill over the weekend that dealt with many of the same provisions, and McCain followed with one of his own on Tuesday. The Senators meeting so quickly and coming to a compromise was a rare moment of unity for a body that has found few points of agreement in recent years.