WASHINGTON (AP)-- The Senate has approved a bill making it easier for veterans who've endured long wait times for VA medical care to receive treatment from local doctors instead.
The measure closely resembles a bill approved June 10 in the House. Lawmakers have said they are optimistic a compromise version can soon be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The Senate bill, approved 93-3, would authorize about $35 billion over three years to pay for the outside care, hire hundreds of doctors and nurses and lease 26 new health facilities in 17 states and Puerto Rico.
The Veterans Affairs Department released an audit this week showing that more than 57,000 veterans have had to wait at least three months for initial appointments. Some vets who asked for appointments never got them.
The Senate bill makes it easier for the Veterans Affairs secretary to fire incompetent executive employees, creates more than two dozen new VA medical facilities around the country, and authorizes $500 million for the hiring of new doctors and nurses.
The bill also allows veterans to seek private care outside of the VA system if necessary.
The Senate legislation will need to be merged with a similar house version.