WASHINGTON, June 19 (UPI) -- Congress is moving quickly toward getting legislation to the president to fix problems in the Veterans Affairs heath care system, but the House's top Democrat says the effort is insincere without passing an emergency unemployment insurance extension.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, at her weekly press conference at the Capitol Thursday, charged her Republican colleagues with abandoning the veterans who were unemployed.
"There are over three million people who have been cut off from benefits: hundreds of thousands of those people are veterans, and or their caregivers," Pelosi said.
Pelosi, D-Calif., spoke of an event when she honored Elizabeth Dole's work helping the caregivers of wounded warriors, saying many of those caregivers had told her they had lost their benefits.
"It's just astounding that in our country we would not honor the commitment that we have that when people lose their jobs through no fault of their own, including a downturn in the economy, that we would not be there for unemployment insurance," Pelosi said.
Leadership in both the House and Senate Wednesday appointed conferees who would come together to hammer out a single bill from the separate measures passed by both houses.
The House has passed separate bills that allow veterans to seek care outside the VA if they have trouble getting an appointment and giving the VA secretary additional authority to fire top officials within the department. Meanwhile, the Senate-passed bill combines those two issues, and includes approval to build 26 new medical facilities.
The Senate passed a measure in April that would restart unemployment benefits to those who had been without work for more than six months, but the House has failed to take up any version of the bill. The Senate deal expired at the end of May, leaving the pleas of the 3 million long-term unemployed unanswered.