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Johnson, Baldwin vote "yes" on VA reform bill

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  Both of Wisconsin's U-S senators helped pass a compromise veterans' health care reform bill. Republican Ron Johnson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin were both among the 91-to-3 majority that approved the bill last night, and sent it to President Obama who has agreed to sign it.

In June, Johnson was one of only three senators to vote against a larger reform package, citing a cost figure that's twice as much as the current bill. The new measure costs $17-billion over ten years. About $5-billion would come other V-A spending cuts, while the rest will be added to the deficit.

The agency will lease and staff 27 additional veterans' clinics to reduce a backlog of appointments. The V-A will have to pay for care at outside facilities, if veterans cannot get a V-A hospital appointment within 30 days and within 40 miles of their homes. In response to a recent scandal that exposed the backlogs, the bill allows agency executives could be fired immediately, with a three-week appeal process.

Johnson said he would have preferred that the entire cost be off-set by spending cuts -- but the compromise was still good enough to support.