SHERMAN, TX - The Department of Veterans Affairs is one step closer to a multi-billion dollar overhaul after both the House and Senate approved a landmark bill to improve veterans health care.
Thursday night the Senate approved a $16 billion bill to revamp the department of Veterans Affairs.
News broke earlier this year of patients who died while awaiting treatment and long delays in scheduling appointments.
This bill is aimed at fixing those problems and improving veterans' health care.
"Stuff like that hurts, it really hurts. You take any given hospital where our veterans are needing help and they're not being helped....there's something wrong, there's something wrong," said Ray Flood, a service officer for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
It's been three months since reports surfaced that government officials allegedly falsified data to hide how long veterans were waiting to see doctors at V.A. hospitals.
The claims are upsetting to veterans across the country and right here in Texoma.
Flood said it's disheartening.
"You have to understand that this is part of our benefits. We fought ,we joined, we served. We gave a great deal of our lives to our country and this is one of those things they promised us, 'we're going to take care of you' and its very sad when it doesn't happen," said Flood.
But after several months of hearings and the resignation of V.A. secretary Eric Shinseki, Congress is trying to resolve the problems and both the house and senate have passed a bill to help veterans receive the care they need.
U.S. Senator James Inhofe voted for the bill and said,
"Congress took an important step towards reforming an overburdened and unnecessarily bureaucratic agency today while improving the quality of health care our veterans have rightfully earned and deserve."
The estimated cost of the bill is $16.3 billion-dollars over three years.
$10 billion will pay for private doctors to treat qualifying veterans who cannot get a prompt appointment with a V.A. hospital.
$5 billion will be used to hire thousands of doctors and nurses
$1.3 billion will lease 27 new outpatient clinics and other V.A. medical facilities.
"That's one of the greatest things that they've done, money-wise, is starting these clinics. It takes a lot of pressure off those hospitals like Dallas," said Flood.
The new bill would also grant the V.A. secretary authority to immediately fire poor-performing senior executives and restrict funding for annual bonuses available to V.A. employees.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill in the coming days