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GOP Congressional Candidate's Veterans Health Care Plan Plagiarized From Fox News Article

It's an article about a proposed overhaul of VA health care.

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A Republican congressional candidate in Oregon appears to have plagiarized her plan for veterans from a Fox News article about proposed changes to the troubled Veterans Affairs health care.

Tootie Smith, a Republican running against Oregon Democrat Rep. Kurt Schrader in the state's 5th Congressional veteran's medical care plan uses nearly-identical language to a Fox News article from July on action taken by House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees.

The campaign for Smith, who currently serves as Clackamas County Commissioner, didn't return emails or phone calls about the similar text.

Here's the Fox News article:

The leaders of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees unveiled a tentative deal on Monday on legislation meant to improve veterans' health care and tackle the litany of scandalous problems at the VA, in a bid to get the wheels turning on a solution ahead of the looming August recess.

"This starts the conversation," said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., who leads the House veterans committee. "The VA is not sacred -- veterans are."

The proposal would authorize at least $17 billion in spending over the next three years to fix the veterans health program, with about $5 billion of that offset elsewhere in the budget. Congressional aides say the agreement includes funding to make it easier for veterans who can't get prompt appointments with Veterans Affairs doctors to obtain outside care and funding to hire doctors, nurses and other medical staff.

The plan also grants the VA secretary authority to immediately fire senior executives, while providing employees with streamlined appeal rights.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate veterans panel, proposed a bill last week that would cost about $25 billion over three years. Miller, his House counterpart, responded with a plan to approve $10 billion in emergency spending, with a promise of more spending in future years.

The two lawmakers' differences threatened to derail talks last week, but the lawmakers negotiated over the weekend and produced the plan announced on Monday.

"The United States Congress is in my view a dysfunctional institution ... so I'm quite proud of what we've accomplished," Sanders said Monday.

The leaders of both parties in both chambers would still have to take the pulse of their respective caucuses on the plan, which would still have to be approved by the House and Senate.

The announcement, though, could quell concerns that Congress would start a five-week summer recess without any legislative solution amid widespread national outrage over problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The pair said in a joint statement that they had "made significant progress" toward an agreement on legislation "to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals."

The plan, among other provisions, includes funding to give veterans who can't get a VA appointment the option of receiving non-VA care; funding for the VA itself; and authority for the VA secretary to immediately fire corrupt or incompetent senior executives.

Eighteen veterans died while on a secret waiting list for care at the VA facility in Phoenix. And an inspector general's report in May found roughly 1,700 veterans in Phoenix were on the unauthorized list with some waiting as long as 115 days for treatment.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned shortly after the release of that report.

Lawmakers were working through dueling proposals last week. Those proposals would have scaled back separate House- and Senate-passed bills after lawmakers in both parties expressed shock at price tags totaling more than $35 billion.

The Obama administration says it needs about $17.6 billion to hire thousands of doctors, nurses and other health professionals, lease new facilities and upgrade its computers to reduce a backlog of veterans awaiting care at VA hospitals and clinics.

The administration's request does not include money to allow more veterans to go to private doctors to avoid long waits for VA care. Expansion of private care was the biggest cost in the bills approved by Congress.

Republicans complained that Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson's budget request was thinly documented. Miller told Gibson on Thursday he was surprised that such a large request was made in a slim, three-page memo.

The VA request includes $8.2 billion to hire 1,500 doctors and thousands of nurses and other medical and mental health professionals; $6 billion for construction projects to improve safety or patient access; $1.2 billion for computer enhancements; and $400 million for more staff to deal with the agency's backlog of benefits claims.

And here's Smith on veterans:

House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees revealed a tentative agreement on Monday for legislation that is meant to improve veteran's health care. It also includes a plan to address the scandalous problems at the VA.

This is only the first step, but it shows a commitment by the Congress in resolving the treatment our vets deserve and should expect "This starts the conversation," said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., who leads the House veterans committee. "The VA is not sacred — veterans are."

The proposal authorizes at least $17 billion in spending over the next several years to fix the veterans health program. Approximately $5 billion is to be offset elsewhere in the budget. The agreement includes funding to make it easier for veterans who can't get prompt appointments with Veterans Affairs doctors to obtain outside care and funding to hire doctors, nurses and other medical staff.

The plan also grants the VA secretary authority to immediately fire senior executives, while providing employees with streamlined appeal rights.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate veterans panel, proposed a bill
of approximately $25 billion over three years. Miller's, House plan would have approved $10 billion in emergency spending, with a promise of more spending in future years.

The differences were worked out over the weekend and produced the truly bi-partisan plan announced Monday. Sanders and Miller will still have to take the pulse of their respective caucuses on the plan, and need final approval by the House and Senate.

In a joint statement they said they had "made significant progress" toward an agreement on legislation "to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals."

Isn't this the leadership we should expect from our members of Congress? I think so!

Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Andrew Kaczynski at andrew.kaczynski@buzzfeed.com.

Ilan Ben-Meir is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Ilan Ben-Meir at ilan.ben-meir@buzzfeed.com.

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