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National Editorial & Columnists

VA problems demand solutions in Illinois

Major changes are necessary

The unearthing of major issues with our nation’s veterans’ health care system must spur major changes.

It’s not going to blow over. No longer can it be swept under the rug.

Congress worked [last] week to pass legislation that would provide more money for VA hospitals. That’s the right move.

A Senate bill, which passed 93-3 on [June 11], would authorize about $35 billion over 3 years to pay for outside care for veterans. It would also allow for the hiring of hundreds of doctors and nurses and lease 26 new health facilities in 17 states and Puerto Rico.

The House approved a similar measure earlier in the week with a unanimous vote.

The White House said President Barack Obama supports the Senate bill.

They’re all right. The VA system needs more money, more people and more locations. It’s the only way to fix this badly broken system.

The Veterans Affairs Department released an audit [last] week showing that more than 57,000 veterans have had to wait at least 3 months for initial appointments. An additional 64,000 veterans who asked for appointments over the past decade never got them.

In Marion, it was found that appointments for 494 patients were never made. A spokeswoman for the Marion VA said that number is not entirely accurate.

Accurate or not, there’s clearly a glitch that needs fixed. The system should not state nearly 500 vets went without care.

The Marion hospital is slated for further review. That’s a good thing.

It’s a major regional hub of veterans care. It’s had well-documented issues in the past. A good, hard look at how things are done there will be to the benefit of our local vets.

Three Republican senators were the only “no” votes in either house for [last] week’s legislation, arguing the bill writes a blank check. They voiced concerns about oversight of the funds and the ability to rein in the spending.

Those are realistic concerns, and it’s Congress’ job to ensure the money allotted for the VA is used properly and monitored closely.

Our veterans are entitled to nearly unlimited care. That’s the blank check we owe them.

It doesn’t mean veterans should be able to use the VA for any and all medical issues at a moment’s notice.

It means they should have every resource available to them in a reasonable time frame. When our veterans need medical attention, they should get the very best as soon as possible.

We asked them to give everything, and we should offer everything we can in return.

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