Last February, before the Veterans Affairs health care scandal broke, Sen. Bernard Sanders, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, joined with 28 Democratic co-sponsors to offer a bill increasing funding for the VA by $20 billion — even though the agency had failed to use all the money Congress had given it in the form of big budget increases in recent years.
Sanders’ bill, S.1982, officially titled the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014, was a hodgepodge of several previous bills. “The package would improve VA health care and dental care, expand educational opportunities, help the VA address a disability claims backlog and help veterans find jobs,” Sanders’ office said.
The bill would essentially offer VA health care services to all veterans, including those who do not have service-related problems and have incomes above current cutoff levels. It would also greatly expand a program that pays caregivers of disabled veterans a monthly stipend. Congress originally passed the measure for veterans of post-Sept. 11 wars; Sanders would expand it to all veterans.