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Obama Signs $16 Billion VA Health Care Bill Into Law

President Obama signed legislation Thursday that tries to mend the broken Veterans Affairs system, providing money to improve facilities and hire more medical staff, along with allowing more veterans to use private facilities. The bill is aimed at cutting veterans' long wait times for health care.

The president signed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 one week after it gained congressional approval; the signing ceremony was held at Fort Belvoir, an Army base in Virginia.

"This bill covers a lot of ground," Obama said, "from expanding survivor benefits and educational opportunities, to improving care for veterans struggling with traumatic brain injury and for victims of sexual assault."

Signing the bill into law today, Obama was joined by several congressional supporters of the bipartisan bill, as well as Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald, who took over the position after former chief Eric Shinseki resigned in the wake of reports of mismanagement and inadequate health care.

The president noted that in addition to the funding and other changes in the bill, it includes a provision that gives McDonald "more authority to hold people accountable ... so that he can move quickly to remove senior executives who fail to meet the standards of conduct and competence that the American people demand."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.