The House of Representatives approved plan to overhaul the V.A. and improve health care for veterans

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A plan to overhaul the Department of Veteran Affairs will improve health care for veterans.

The House of Representatives approved a bill Wednesday and it will now be sent to the Senate.

The bill $16 billion bill would allow the V.A. to hire more doctors, nurses and other medical staff to address the overcrowding issues at facilities.  That will hopefully cut down on wait times for veterans who need to make a doctor appointment.

Army Veteran, Maria Rangel, told 23ABC she knows exactly what it is like to be on a waiting list to see a doctor.

“I’m under treatment right now for a condition I have and I should be seen every three weeks and I haven’t been seen for a month and a half,” said Rangel.

Rangel served as an army engineer on the front lines in Iraq, but is now facing a different battle at home because of her health care.

“It’s very disappointing to be on a waiting list just to be seen.”

The bi-partisan plan to help veterans includes emergency funding that will allow veterans to go to private doctors if they are told they have to wait more than 14 days for an appointment. Veterans who live more than 40 miles from a facility will also be allowed to seek health care outside of the V.A.

“For the people who live in Lake Isabella or Boron, places way out there where there's no V.A. they have to drive 100 to 200 miles so being able to have contact with a local doctor is fantastic,” said Robert Shaull, Navy Veteran and Commander of VFW Post 97 in Bakersfield.

The bill also includes money that will be used to lease 27 new clinics across the country.

“This is a big issue right now. Almost everybody in the nation has some connection to a veteran or someone in the military so it is close to their hearts and they don't want to see their vets messed with,” said Dick Taylor, Director of Kern County Veterans Service Department.

 "It's nice to hear because it feels like there's someone out there that cares,” said Rangel.

 After three tours of duty, Rangel is now focused on staying healthy for her family.

"I have a five year old son to live for and he needs me healthy so that's my priority right now and it would be great to see some changes,” said Rangel.

The legislation also comes after the V.A. scandal over delays at facilities and accusations of falsified records to cover up wait times.

The Senate could vote on the bill as early as Thursday.



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