NBC Omits Coverage of Agreement on VA Hospital Bill; Mentions Robots in South Korean Ballpark Instead

Over the weekend, leaders from the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees reached an agreement on legislation to reform the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs with the full details unveiled during a press conference Monday afternoon. When it came to the major broadcast networks covering this breakthrough in their Monday morning news shows, NBC’s Today decided not to inform their viewers of the story. Maybe it was because NBC was too concerned telling them how Congress wasn't working to notice.

Between the two networks that did cover the latest in the VA scandal, ABC and CBS, ABC’s Good Morning America clocked in with the lowest amount of air time (no surprises here) with only a 16 second news brief during the 7:00 a.m. hour. Meanwhile, CBS This Morning had a report from CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes on the bipartisan negotiations and included numerous details of the plan. [MP3 audio here; Video below]

The agreement, which would require passage before Congress leaves for its 5-week-long summer recess on Friday, brought together competing bills that passed the House and Senate earlier in the year that each provided more funding for the VA to improve upon the long backlog of veterans waiting for medical care and reform the department that has been mired in scandal since May. The separate measures and costs associated with each bill led to disagreement between the two chambers that, until Sunday, appeared rather cumbersome to overcome.

Here are more details on the agreement from Cordes: 

[T]he most significant change for veterans in this new bill will be that anyone who has been waiting for more than a month for treatment at a VA facility or who lives more than 40 miles away from a VA facility will now be able to seek treatment from a private physician and have it covered by the VA. This legislation grants the VA about $10 billion in emergency funds, mostly to cover that new cost and it does a few other things to try to cut into this month-long backlog at VA facilities around the country. For example, it grants additional funding for 27 new VA facilities, mostly community clinics and it provides the VA with funding to hire additional doctors, nurses, and support staff.

In addition, Politico reported Monday morning that the legislation will “give the VA secretary broad new authority to fire or demote senior officials accused of mismanagement and will create a system where veterans can seek private care if VA doctors are unable to treat the patients within 14 days.”

As for Good Morning America’s report, news reader Amy Robach told viewers that: 

Back here at home, a breakthrough deal in Congress to address the VA hospital scandal. The plan would spend billions of dollars to lease more clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can't get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care.

Instead of even a news brief on the topic, NBC’s Today found time to discuss how a baseball team in South Korea has installed robots in their stadium to help fill empty seats. It’s worth noting to that Good Morning America talked about this as well, but they still found time to briefly mention the VA legislation.


The complete transcript of the July 28 news brief on Good Morning America can be found below. 

ABC 

Good Morning America

July 28, 2014

7:13 a.m. Eastern

AMY ROBACH: Back here at home, a breakthrough deal in Congress to address the VA hospital scandal. The plan would spend billions of dollars to lease more clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can't get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care.

The full transcript for the July 28 segment on CBS This Morning is transcribed below.

CBS 

CBS This Morning

July 28, 2014

7:15 a.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Fixing the VA; Lawmakers Reach Deal to Improve Veteran Care]

CHARLIE ROSE: This morning congressional leaders have a deal to address massive problems with veterans health care. The compromised bill took more than six weeks to work out. 

[ON-SCREEN GRAPHIC: The Wall Street Journal - “Congress Reaches Deal to Help Fix VA,” New York Daily News - “House and Senate Negotiators Reach Deal to Fix VA Mess,” Los Angeles Times - “VA Healthcare: Tentative Deal Reached in Congress”]

Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill with the details that will be announced today. Nancy, good morning. 

NANCY CORDES: Good morning. It is looking like a rare bipartisan victory. CBS News has learned that the most significant change for veterans in this new bill will be that anyone who has been waiting for more than a month for treatment at a VA facility or who lives more than 40 miles away from a VA facility will now be able to seek treatment from a private physician and have it covered by the VA. This legislation grants the VA about $10 billion in emergency funds, mostly to cover that new cost and it does a few other things to try to cut into this month-long backlog at VA facilities around the country. For example, it grants additional funding for 27 new VA facilities, mostly community clinics and it provides the VA with funding to hire additional doctors, nurses, and support staff and finally, it does a few different things to try to change the culture at the VA, notably giving VA managers more authority to fire employees who act improperly. Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent and Congressman Jeff Miller, a Republican, worked through the weekend to craft this deal. They're going to announce it in a press conference today and their aides tell us, Norah, that they think this could pass the House and Senate by the end of the month. 

NORAH O’DONNELL: Very interesting. Great reporting, Nancy. Thank you so much.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is a news analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division