Heartland vets support $17 billion deal to improve VA

Heartland vets support $17 billion deal to improve VA

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Some Heartland veterans hope part of a $17 billion federal deal to help veterans avoid long waits for health care, hire more doctors and nurses to treat veterans and make it easier to fire executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs makes it's way to southeast Missouri.

The bipartisan deal was announced on Monday.

It is intended to fix a veterans' health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

The bill includes $10 billion in emergency spending to make it easier for veterans who can't get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care; $5 billion to hire doctors, nurses and other medical staff; and about $1.5 billion to lease 27 new clinics across the country, lawmakers said.

The bill also would expand a scholarship program for veterans, allow all veterans to qualify for in-state college tuition and grant the VA secretary authority to immediately fire senior executives, while providing employees with streamlined appeal rights.

Veterans living near Cape Girardeau can go to the Pershing Outpatient Clinic for basic care. Anything beyond that, veterans must go to Poplar Bluff, Marion, or St. Louis for treatment at larger hospitals.

Jim Roche, commander of the Jackson American Legion, thinks an improved or new VA clinic in Cape could make a big difference.

"Our older veterans, you know, many of them can not drive anymore," Roche said. "They have to rely on some other form of transportation to get them to those facilities."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.