Obama Signs $16 Billion VA Overhaul into Law

WASHINGTON — Sally Barnes-Breen watched her father die while waiting months just to see a doctor at the dysfunctional Department of Veterans Affairs.

Now she says a bill signed into law on Thursday by President Barack Obama doesn’t hold accountable those responsible for what happened.

“They broke all the medical codes, when you swear on your oath,” she told CNN of the inability of her father, Navy veteran Thomas Breen, to get an appointment.

“Billions of dollars can’t fix the VA broken system,” she continued. “What’s going to fix (this) is if you criminalize people when they do wrong.”

The $16 billion measure doesn’t criminalize anybody.

It provides money to build more VA medical facilities and hire more doctors and nurses.

It includes more funds so some veterans can get health care in private facilities.

It also makes it easier to fire or otherwise discipline senior VA officials.

Congress approved the package just before going home for its August recess

A CNN investigation that started last November uncovered excessive waits for veterans seeking health care. Subsequent reports revealed secret lists kept by some VA hospitals to hide the waiting periods and other management problems.

Dozens of veterans died while waiting for care.

The crisis led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in May as well as congressional investigations.

The FBI has also joined a probe by the VA inspector general’s office. The agency watchdog is looking at allegations of wait time manipulation at 92 VA medical facilities.

Last week, the Senate confirmed Robert McDonald as the agency’s new secretary.

The former business executive has promised to swiftly carry out reforms intended to speed up care for returning soldiers entering the VA system and eliminating bogus record-keeping.

Thomas Breen died in November 2013 after being repeatedly denied care at the Phoenix VA medical facility.

A month later came a call from the VA saying he had an appointment scheduled.

“I said, ‘Really, you’re a little too late, sweetheart,'” Breen’s daughter recalled earlier this year in a CNN interview.

CNN’s Scott Bronstein and Drew Griffin reported from Arizona, and CNN’s Tom Cohen reported and wrote from Washington.

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