Washington, DC—House lawmakers on Wednesday passed legislation to fund a $300 million repair table for the Veterans Administration, the latest step in a bipartisan effort to repair the VA’s broken health care system.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee approved the bill by a vote of 10-0, with Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump voting against it.
The Senate Veterans Affairs committee passed a similar bill last week.
The bipartisan effort aims to improve VA health care services by $3.4 billion over the next five years, while also providing $300 billion in long-term funding for other critical programs, including the VA health system, disability compensation payments, and unemployment compensation.
The VA is currently in the middle of a crisis, with the number of veterans dying each day surpassing 8,000, and the crisis has cost the VA more than $200 billion.
The veterans service agency has already been criticized by many of its own leaders, and is facing mounting financial difficulties due to a lack of funding and understaffing.
It has been plagued by problems with fraud and mismanagement, and in the last year, the agency has been criticized for having a slow response to reports of fraud.
The bill passed on Wednesday, with bipartisan support.
The full House of Representatives will now vote on the bill before it heads to the Senate.
VA officials say the bill will provide critical support for the VA to address the crisis of veteran suicides and the backlog of veterans needing care, including urgent care and medical care.
The new VA repair plan will be funded by a $15 billion budget approved by Congress in September and must be approved by the president before being signed into law.
The department has already announced that the VA will be cutting $300m from its budget over the coming years, but it will also begin to implement reforms to ensure the VA is able to provide veterans with timely, quality care.
Veterans have expressed frustration with the lack of attention given to their needs by the VA, which has struggled to provide timely care and services.
The Trump administration has pushed to restore funding to the VA as soon as possible, including through the Veterans Health Administration, which operates VA health clinics, hospitals, and other facilities.
It plans to replace the VA Healthcare System, a program created under former President Bill Clinton in 1996, with a separate agency called Veterans Benefits Administration, or VBA.
The White House and VA officials have been adamant that the new VBA would take over many of the responsibilities of the VA and would ensure that VA facilities are staffed and operational.
The administration has also said that the VBA is more efficient and more cost-effective than the VA.
The proposed VA repairs include $3 billion for new medical and nursing facilities to expand care and increase access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, and $400 million to improve mental health services in the VA Health Care System.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has also proposed a $600 million fund to provide VA medical care to the mentally ill and veterans, which is slated to begin in 2019.
The president has been adamant in calling for the funding, and his administration has repeatedly argued that the program has been underfunded, and that the bill would make the VA even more efficient.
The federal government has already allocated nearly $1 trillion for VA health services, which would provide a significant boost to the agency’s budget.
But the Trump administration wants the money immediately, and it has proposed slashing funding for the agency by nearly half.
The American Veterans Coalition, a nonprofit that represents more than 5 million veterans, praised the bill, saying it is a major step forward in restoring critical VA services.
“VBA will be the largest and most comprehensive funding package to restore VA care to all of its veterans,” said VBA President Jeff Miller.
“The VA needs the resources now, but this is a crucial time to restore critical services to veterans and their families.”
The bill is also expected to address problems with the Veterans Benefits Advisory Committee, a body of VA officials tasked with overseeing VA health programs and ensuring veterans receive timely care.
Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a measure that would create a new committee tasked with ensuring the VA provides veterans with quality health care and timely benefits.
The proposal was defeated by a 52-48 vote in the Senate Veterans Health and Human Services Committee, which did not have a vote on it.
A similar bill to fix the VA has already passed the House, but the Senate has not yet voted on it, and there has been no indication of when that will happen.
Congress is currently considering a long-awaited bill that would allow the VA medical center at Jackson Health System in Mississippi to reopen and provide care to veterans.
The Veterans Affairs Department has said it will begin providing veterans with access to VA health facilities starting in 2019, and a second plan is expected to be unveiled soon.