U.S. Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, have introduced the Veterans Community Care and Access Act of 2017, legislation that would transform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) into a modern, efficient and easy-to-use system that will increase veterans' access to quality care. This legislation, S. 2184, would better integrate VA services and existing VA community care programs, such as the Veterans Choice Program, into an efficient and high-performing healthcare system.
"In the wake of the scandal in care at VA hospitals in Phoenix and around the country, we vowed to guarantee our veterans timely access to quality treatment," said Sen. McCain. "The Veterans Choice Program was the first step in delivering on that promise, but much more needs to be done to provide all veterans a choice in when and where they receive care. Our bill would strengthen and improve the core elements of Choice by consolidating and streamlining the VA's community care program. Moreover, the bill would deliver long overdue, critical reforms to the VA, including commonsense reporting standards that ensure cost-efficient care to our nation's veterans. It's time we transform the VA into a 21st century health care system, one that respects the dignity of our men and women in uniform and provides all veterans the quality health care they deserve."
"Since the creation of the Veterans Choice Program, Congress has repeatedly pushed the VA to make much-needed changes to its healthcare system," said Sen. Moran. "Far too many Kansas veterans have experienced unnecessary difficulties accessing the care they've earned from the VA, and I appreciate that they have shared their stories and empowered us to work on their behalf. Demand has demonstrated that veterans want and need healthcare options in their communities, but there must be reform at the VA to create a system that works for them. I'm proud to be introducing this transformative legislation with Senator McCain, whose advocacy for our veterans is unparalleled. This joint effort to reform the VA will offer veterans an integrated healthcare system within their community that reduces red tape, enhances their quality of life and provides care that is worthy of their service and sacrifice."
This legislation would ensure that veterans are the primary decision-makers concerning when and where they receive care. In addition, the bill would require the VA to use objective data on healthcare demand to set standards for access and quality, and to identify and bridge gaps in veterans' care -- whether in VA or community facilities. Importantly, the bill would ensure the VA promptly pays community providers, offers access to walk-in clinics, offers telemedicine, increases graduate medical education and residency positions for employees, and improves its collaboration with community providers and other federal agencies.
This legislation is supported by the American Legion, AMVETS and Concerned Veterans for America.
"On behalf of the 2 million members of The American Legion, I write to support your bill titled, Veterans Community Care and Access Act of 2017," said American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan. "The bill, as currently written, would modify the already existing Choice program, providing veterans with the 21st Century medical system they rightfully deserve." The American Legion's full letter in support of the legislation is available here.
"AMVETS is pleased to support the Veterans Community Care and Access Act of 2017. Veterans need health care, both inside and outside of the VA system of care," said AMVETS National Executive Director Joe Chenelly. "This measure addresses funding, implements ongoing patient surveying in conjunction with community care teams, and devises re-evaluation of both VA and private sector care. Both need oversight. All veterans have a right to receive the quality health care they have earned, and we applaud the hard work and insight that has taken place for this type of measure to be created. We urge its swift passage and will assist however we can."
"Despite tens of billions of dollars in budget increases for the VA over the past three years, there are still far too many veterans waiting long periods of time for critical appointments and still too frequent reports of veterans suffering as the result of substandard care at the VA," said Concerned Veterans for America Executive Director Dan Caldwell. "The Veterans Community Care and Access Act of 2017 would change that by reforming how the VA delivers health care to our veterans. The legislation would give veterans more options in their healthcare and change how it is delivered. Additionally, the legislation creates a plan to combine multiple outside care programs at the VA that will reduce bureaucracy and streamline reimbursements to community providers Concerned Veterans for America strongly supports this legislation and we thank you for leading on this important issue." Concerned Veterans for America's full letter in support of the legislation is available here.
A description of key highlights of the bill is attached and available here. Read a full section by section description of the legislation here.