VA health care bill named after John McCain

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(CNN) — A major piece of veterans legislation that is headed to President Donald Trump’s desk bears the name of Arizona’s Republican Sen. John McCain, who has been absent from the Capitol since December as he battles brain cancer.

The full title of the bill, which passed the Senate on a 92-5 vote Wednesday, is the “John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018.”

The bill is designated for McCain and Rep. Samuel Johnson, a Texas Republican, both of whom were prisoners of war in Vietnam, and also for Daniel Akaka, a former Hawaii Democratic senator and World War II veteran who died in April.

It is called the VA MISSION Act for short.

Trump has said he is ready to sign the bill “immediately” to ensure that veterans receive “the care they deserve.”

McCain said in a statement following the bill’s passage that he was “deeply humbled” that his colleagues had designated the legislation in his name, along with Johnson and Akaka.

“We share this honor with all of the veterans who came before us and all who proudly served and are still serving around the world,” McCain said. “As we mark Memorial Day this weekend, I can think of no better way to demonstrate our gratitude to the brave men and women who have sacrificed in uniform than to strengthen and improve the care they so richly deserve.”

The legislation would give veterans more freedom to seek medical care outside of the Veterans Affairs Department’s health care system. It also provides $5.2 billion for the VA’s Choice program, allowing it to operate for another year and ensuring that veterans do not see disruptions in their care.

Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Georgia’s Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, thanked McCain, an early supporter of veterans’ choice.

“I want to thank John McCain, whose idea this was originally: a great hero to all of us, a friend to all of us, one we love and pray for today as he recovers from cancer. John is the one who started the movement toward Choice, and he deserves the credit for it,” Isakson said.

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