Kirk's VA funding bill clears Senate hurdle, set for debate
The U.S. Senate voted 93-0 on Thursday to begin debate on the 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon/VA) Appropriations bill, written by U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), which would raise funding for veterans care to an all-time high.
“We are one step closer to putting veterans first and partisanship aside,” Kirk said. “This bipartisan bill funds veterans’ care at record levels – $1.1 billion above what the president requested. With this bill, it is my hope that we can confront the systemic retaliation against the medical personnel who try to protect veterans.”
Protection for doctors and other VA whistleblowers who have drawn attention to system failures at VA institutions have sometimes faced heavy intimidation in the past. Kirk chaired a hearing on Friday at the Edward Hines, Jr., VA Hospital near Maywood, Illinois, to discuss reports of mistreatment of vets and retaliation against whistleblowers. Doctors at the Hines hospital allegedly were threatened with disciplinary action for reporting a backlog of unread heart tests and several unnecessary surgeries.
In addition to funding care for military personnel and protecting the people who take care of them, Kirk's bill also takes care of local military outposts, including $20 million for 38 new housing units at Rock Island Arsenal and $1.9 million for a new firing range at the Illinois Army National Guard base in Sparta.
The total proposed funding for the VA is $71.2 billion.