Majorities in both the US House and Senate voted in May to include the language, the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee decided last week to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote.
The latest version of the Appropriations bill now awaits action by the Senate, who may seek to reconsider the amendment.
“We feel the failure of the conferees to include [this] provision is a drastic misfortune for veterans and contrary to the will of both chambers,” wrote Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and nine other Democratic lawmakers in letter to Congressional leadership asking them to reinstate the amendment.
Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Passage of the proposed amendment would lift this prohibition.
Also last week, Republican leaders on the House Rules Committee blocked House members from voting on a Democrat-sponsored amendment that sought to permit state-compliant marijuana business access to banking. Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee had approved similar language earlier this month.