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Patty Murray Praises VA Reforms But Warns Of More Troubling Revelations

Gabriel Spitzer
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the reforms are a step in the right direction.

Washington’s senior U.S. Sen. Patty Murray says a new deal to spend billions on fixing the Department of Veterans Affairs is an essential step, but she warns the reform efforts are likely to unearth even more problems.

Bipartisan negotiators in Congress took a while to settle on a $17 billion package of reforms meant to address long waits for care at VA hospitals and clinics across the country.

As the Senate voted to confirm Robert McDonald as the new VA Secretary, Murray, the former chairwoman of the Senate veterans affairs committee, praised both the nominee and the reforms he’ll be overseeing. But she also warned there could be more troubling revelations to come.

“This cannot be the final step. As transparency and accountability increase at the VA, so will the investigations and reports of additional concerns requiring even more action from the VA, from the administration and from this Congress,” Murray said on the Senate floor.

The reforms include money to allow veterans who live more than 40 miles from VA facilities to get care in private settings. Murray’s office also championed a provision to extend the same services to people who live in places like the San Juan Islands — closer than 40 miles, but still geographically remote.

Veterans who can’t be seen in a reasonable amount of time will also be able to shop for care elsewhere. That could help people struggling with long waits at the VA hospitals in Seattle and Spokane, a Murray staffer said.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.