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The Senate passed two amendments to the Republican budget Tuesday aimed at helping veterans.

Senators passed by voice vote an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would create a deficit neutral fund to bolster the Veterans Affairs Department (VA), allow for the VA to hire additional mental health care workers and ensure veterans get timely access to care.

They also passed an amendment from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) by voice vote. Her measure creates a deficit-neutral fund to bolster the Veterans Choice Card program, which was part of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act passed last year. 

The deficit neutral reserve funds, essentially a placeholder, would give lawmakers more flexibility in figuring out how to pay for the extra spending as they work through the appropriations process later this year. 

Speaking before the vote, the New Hampshire Republican said that the “program has yet to be implemented in the way this body intended.”

Ayotte said her amendment would “ensure that veterans don't have to wait in line, that they can exercise private care options when they want to.”

By Jordain Carney
The Hill
Published March 24, 2015

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