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Hoosier lawmakers back VA changes

All nine Hoosiers in the U.S. House voted Wednesday in favor of legislation to upgrade the federal health care system for military veterans.

The House-Senate compromise bill reshaping the Department of Veterans Affairs passed by a 420-5 vote. All ?the "no"? votes were cast by Republicans.

The bill, if approved by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama, would pay for veterans to receive health care from non-VA providers if they have to wait more than 30 days for VA care or drive more than 40 miles to the nearest VA clinic.

The legislation also would spend $17 billion for hiring more VA doctors and nurses and entering into lease agreements for 27 new clinics. And it would give the VA secretary greater authority to fire staff.

Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd, a member of the conference committee that produced the legislation, said the bill ?will improve the lives of our nation'?s veterans.?

?However, simply providing a financial boost to an agency that has repeatedly demonstrated awful management practices will not solve the problem,? said Walorsksi, a member of the House Veterans? Affairs Committee, in a statement.

She said Congress ?must continue to stand to together to ensure additional oversight is conducted and improvements are made? to VA.

The legislation has advanced in the wake of media reports on a host of VA problems, including preventable patient deaths, medical treatment delays, fraudulent recordkeeping and backlogs of benefits claims.

Rep. Susan Brooks, R-5th, said in a statement: ?"The VA health care system needs a comprehensive cultural shift and there is still much work to be done. But this bipartisan agreement represents a significant move in the right direction.?"

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