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WASHINGTON -- Senior senators have reached agreement for a bipartisan bill expanding veterans' ability to get government-paid medical care outside Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics.

The framework agreement was announced Thursday on the Senate floor by Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Sanders, an Independent, said the country, in his words, ``right now ... has a crisis on our hands.''

The bill would allow veterans who experience long waits for VA appointments or who live at least 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic to use private doctors enrolled as providers for Medicare or other government programs.

The bill's goal is to address an uproar over veterans' health care following reports veterans have died while waiting to see a VA doctor.

Associated Press,

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