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Senator Craig Proposes Private Sector Health Care for Veterans

Citing a problematic military health care system, a Republican senator on Thursday introduced a bill to allow veterans to receive care from the private sector.

Stories about outpatient issues at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have led lawmakers to express outrage over conditions for wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, said he thought Walter Reed Army Medical Center's problems were isolated, but he wants service men and woman to have the additional option just in case.

"There may be that concern, there may be that unique problem, and if there is and if it puts someone's life at risk, then they darn well ought to be cared for in a timely and appropriate way and that may be private access," Craig said.

The Veterans Health Care Empowerment Act would allow veterans with "service connected disabilities" to seek treatment from the hospital or medical center of their choice at a "slight increase in cost." Craig added that veterans who qualify should be able to use the VA health care card for treatment.

Craig said he supports the VA system, but is growing "increasingly frustrated by the rhetoric, because it's not justifiable under any circumstance."

"I believe there is a connectivity here, that would argue that our president is not administering a war well, and you see he isn't even caring for the veterans that are a product of that war," Craig said.

On Wednesday, President Bush met with the co-chairs of his new commission tasked to look at military and veterans health care. The commission was created after reports of decrepit conditions at Walter Reed's Building 18, where outpatients receive treatment.

Former Sen. Bob Dole, who was wounded in World War II, and former Clinton administration Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, now president of the University of Miami, are leading the nine-member panel.

FOX News' Trish Turner contributed to this report.