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Committee Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Care for Veterans

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Washington, November 3, 2017 | comments

Today, members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, led by Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-Minn.), introduced a bipartisan bill to streamline VA’s community care accounts into one veteran-centric program that replaces the Choice Program, removing the current 30-day, 40-mile requirement to give veterans more timely access to community care.

Committee members released the following statements:

“For the last ten months, I’ve sat down countless times with veterans, representatives from Veterans Service Organizations, administration officials and members of the House and Senate from both parties to hear their ideas to improve veterans’ access to care,” said Chairman Roe. “This has truly been a joint effort, and I thank these partners for their input. The fact we were able to introduce this bill with such broad, bipartisan support is a testament to the committee’s commitment to work together and tackle tough issues on behalf of veterans. I’m proud of the legislation introduced today, just before Veterans Day, and I look forward to moving this bill through the legislative process.”   

“The clinical decision of when and where a veteran receives their care should always be based on a conversation with his or her doctor,” said Ranking Member Walz. “That is why it is imperative that any permanent solution to improve community care empowers rural veterans and providers, increases access to high-quality, timely healthcare, and maintains our commitment to preserving VA. While this bill continues to be a work in progress, it’s a good first step in addressing the challenges veterans and providers faced with the VA Choice Program. I have heard from health care providers and veterans across the country, especially in rural Minnesota, to ensure their views are being considered as this bill is drafted. Their on-the-ground experience and insight is invaluable and I look forward to working with them closely as we continue our work to get this right.”

“All Veterans deserve timely access to quality care near their home,” said Vice Chair Bilirakis. “The CHOICE Act was designed to allow Veterans to seek care in their communities when the VA was not able to meet these key objectives. There have been several problems with the VA’s implementation of the CHOICE Act, and we are addressing those issues in this important legislation to make the program permanent. I will continue to fight to ensure all Veterans receive the care they have earned and deserve.”

“We must continue to build a modern VA that leverages both federal and private providers to get veterans timely access to the quality care they need,” said Brownley. “This bill will consolidate all the VA community care programs into a single system, making it easier for veterans to receive care closer to home and encouraging more community providers to participate. Simultaneously, we absolutely must invest to make VA the 21st Century healthcare system that our men and women who have served in uniform deserve. I look forward to continuing to work together with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure the VA healthcare system best serves our nation’s veterans.”

“The VA of the 21st century should be able to adapt to the changing needs of our veterans," said Coffman. “By streamlining VA’s community care services, this bill puts veterans’ healthcare needs first while pioneering efficiency & accountability in the VA system.” 

“This bill puts the best interests of our veterans first. It improves access to care and empowers veterans to obtain the best care possible, no matter where they live or what kind of illness they face,” said Dunn. “This committee strives to put the best interests of veterans first in everything we do and I commend Chairman Roe for his long-term commitment to this goal and for authoring the VA Care in the Community Act.” 

"The VA Care in the Community bill is a major win for our veterans,” said Higgins. “Providing greater access to VA partner facilities in the community and increasing choice is part of our overall effort to reform and modernize veterans' healthcare. My priority is providing my veteran brothers and sisters with timely, quality care when and where they need it. This bill does exactly that, and I'm uplifted to see full bipartisan support from the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on this measure."

“Veterans in New Hampshire and throughout the country have faced unacceptable challenges in accessing the care they need and deserve,” said Kuster. “In 2014, we took an important step toward helping veterans access care in their communities through the Choice Program. Unfortunately, we know that the Choice Program has been plagued with issues that have limited its effectiveness and use by veterans. The legislation we’re introducing today will help alleviate those challenges by consolidating VA’s community care programs, improving the payment system to care providers, and simplifying the program for veterans. I’m pleased that we’ve been able to come together in a bipartisan manner to work toward developing a system that our veterans can count on for quality, accessible care.”

“In El Paso, we brought together community partners and established a clinic with little or no wait time,” said O’Rourke. “Veterans can’t wait; this is literally a matter of life and death. We’ve got to meet the demand with the urgency it requires. That means opening up and supporting community programs that can offer timely and quality care. Today’s legislation helps us accomplish this goal nationwide.”

“Thank you to Chairman Roe for his leadership on these important efforts to improve access to health care for our veterans,” said Aumua Amata. “This legislation promotes more choices and better options for our veterans. I’m pleased to support this ongoing work, and I appreciate my colleagues on this Committee and their commitment to our veterans.”

“While the VA continues to improve the ways it cares for our nation's veterans, too many of those who fought for our freedoms still face inadequate care,” said Rutherford. “That is why community care programs that both increase and expand services to veterans are essential. As the needs of our veterans change, the VA and its care delivery systems must adapt to meet their demands. We must also put processes in place so that community third party providers get paid on time so they can continue to serve veterans. I am encouraged by the improvements made in this bill, as they carry out the promise we made to our brave men and women. I thank Chairman Roe, the Committee, and the veteran service organizations for their hard work, and I look forward to passage of this bill.”

“A strong and sustainable VA – and a streamlined process for connecting veterans with care in the community – are both critical to providing veterans the quality health care they have earned through their service,” said Takano. “This bill is a positive step forward that maintains VA’s role in coordinating veterans care, while providing access to community providers based on clinical need or logistical challenges. I do not agree with every provision of the legislation, but the bill introduced today puts us on course to pass to a bipartisan compromise that will meaningfully improve veterans’ care.”

“The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is continuing to take bold, bipartisan action to address issues that our veterans face across the board – including unacceptable wait times for care and treatment,” said Wenstrup. “Our men and women in uniform dedicate their lives to the protection of others, and this bill makes real progress towards ensuring that when they return home, our veterans receive the treatment they have earned and deserve. I encourage the full House of Representatives to act swiftly to pass this legislation, so these reforms can reach our veterans, and their families, as soon as possible.”

Read the bill at veterans.house.gov/communitycare.

NOTE: This legislation will be added to the committee’s legislative markup that was announced this morning. A full agenda will be posted here on Monday. 

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