Republican leaders are working to pass legislation that would ease restrictions on the use of Veterans Affairs medical devices, while also ensuring that the Veterans Affairs Department can pay for the devices as long as they’re not being used in a way that can harm patients.
The legislation, which was introduced Wednesday by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), would allow Veterans Affairs to pay for certain types of medical devices that can be used for “a wide range of conditions,” including those related to cancer and diabetes.
It would also allow Veterans to get “up to 15 percent of their monthly VA benefits” for certain devices, including the devices used in the devices approved by the Veterans Health Administration.
It’s a big win for the VA, which has been under scrutiny for a series of medical device problems that have raised questions about how the agency will pay for them.
The bill, however, is also unlikely to win over House Republicans.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) is expected to introduce a similar bill on Friday.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday held a hearing to discuss the legislation and how it could be enacted.
In the end, only three Republicans voted in favor of the bill: Rep. Mark Walker (R), who chairs the subcommittee that’s handling the VA issue, and Rep. Joe Courtney (R).
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R.), who chairs a Veterans Affairs subcommittee that oversees the VA’s medical device policy, said he expects the committee to vote on the bill on Thursday.
Rep. Jeff Miller (R, Ariz.) said the VA needs to focus on making sure it doesn’t become an “institution for money laundering and theft” and not for medical devices.
“We have to be careful about where we are going,” Miller said, adding that “we have to make sure that we’re getting back to a position where we have the best care that we can get, and it’s going to be done in a transparent manner.”
Miller said that he hopes the bill “will be bipartisan, but it’s not going to happen right now.”
He said the committee is working with other committees to get the legislation approved.
The VA is under fire for a number of medical equipment problems, including some that were discovered after the deadly anthrax attacks in September.
The agency has spent more than $100 million to fix some of the issues, but the agency’s internal investigation has been stalled for years and has drawn criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.
The department has also been criticized for failing to meet its contractual obligations to buy the devices it approved, and for not spending enough on training to ensure that its doctors and technicians have the knowledge necessary to use the devices properly.