August 7, 2014 10:53:32 AM
WASHINGTON -- Veterans are expected to have an easier time getting government-paid health care from local doctors under a bill that President Barack Obama is set to sign into law Thursday.
The $16.3 billion measure also allows the Veterans Affairs Department to hire thousands of doctors, nurses and other health professionals at the VA's nearly 1,000 hospitals and outpatient clinics nationwide.
Under the new law, employment rules will be revised to make it easier to fire senior VA executives judged to be negligent or performing poorly.
Obama is traveling to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, an Army base 20 miles south of Washington, to sign the bill. Congress approved the measure last week before taking a five-week recess -- one of the few significant bills approved this year by both the House and the Senate.
The legislation is a response to reports of veterans dying while awaiting appointments to see VA doctors and of a widespread practice of employees covering up monthslong wait times for appointments. In some cases, employees received bonuses based on falsified records.
"No veteran should have to wait to receive the benefits they have earned," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.