SVAC Passes VA Health Care Reform
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) passed the “Caring for Our Veterans Act” (S.2193), sponsored by SVAC Chairman Johnny Isakson. The act reforms the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system by providing veterans easier access to private-sector doctors and the expanded VA’s care givers assistance programs. The bill is estimated to cost $54 billion over 5 years. It also includes $3 billion in additional funding for the current VA Choice program.
The bill would establish a permanent, streamlined “Veterans Community Care Program” that provides veterans access to health care services in their own communities. Under this legislation, a veteran and their doctor will decide where that veteran can receive care, taking into consideration the veteran’s healthcare needs, availability and quality of both VA and community care.
The bill expands eligibility for the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to veterans of all generations, including Vietnam-era veterans.
In addition, the legislation will help improve existing VA health care and services by removing barriers for VA healthcare professionals to practice telemedicine. It also strengthens opioid prescription guidelines for VA and partnering community care providers and eliminates impediments to hiring and retention of VA healthcare professionals.
Additional provisions in the legislation include:
• Authorize access to walk-in community clinics for enrolled veterans who have previously used VA healthcare services in the past two years;
• Allow the VA to enter into agreements with community healthcare and extended-care providers who meet veterans’ demands for care in their community;
• Create reporting requirements to ensure all VA and community care programs are operating efficiently and effectively based on a number of factors including veterans’ satisfaction and quality standards; and
• Create standards for timely payment to community care providers.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee has similar legislation (H.R.4242) expected to be considered early next year. FRA supports the VA Choice program and extending the VA Caregivers Act to full-time caregivers of catastrophically disabled veterans who served in conflicts before September 11, 2001. Members can use the FRA Action Center on our website to ask their legislators to support the Senate bill.