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House approves $17B veterans health care bill

House approves $17B veterans health care bill

VETERANS AFFAIRS: This May 29 photo shows the St. Louis VA Medical Center. The medical center is among those on the list of the facilities with the longest average waits as of May 15 for new patients seeking primary care, specialist care and mental health care, according to audit results released Monday. At 86 days, it ranked fifth on the list of facilities with the longest average wait time for new patient specialist care. Photo: Associated Press/Jim Salter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a $17 billion plan to ease long healthcare delays at the scandal-plagued Veterans Affairs Department, adding much of the cost to the federal deficit.

The compromise measure was reached on Monday between House and Senate negotiators to provide funds for veterans’ temporary access to private medical care, to allow the VA to hire more doctors and nurses and to open more outpatient clinics.

The measure, which also grants VA more authority to fire poor-performing employees, passed 420-5. The Senate is expected to consider it later this week, before Congress starts a five-week summer recess on Friday.

(Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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