Bill introduced to safeguard veteran choice in healthcare, improve quality of care

Published: May. 1, 2023 at 8:40 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Senator Jerry Moran has helped introduce a bill that would safeguard veterans’ choices in their healthcare decision and improve quality and access to care.

U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) has announced that he and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) introduced the Veterans’ Health Empowerment, Access, Leadership and Transparency for our Heroes Act to protect and expand access to care for veterans. He said the bill would also safeguard the ability to choose their own providers and require the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve their quality of care.

“Veterans deserve access to timely, high-quality care and a greater ability to choose when, where and how to use the health care benefits that they earned through their service and sacrifice,” Moran said. “Despite the steps Congress has taken to increase access to care for veterans in VA and in the community, I continue to hear from far too many veterans in Kansas and across the country who are not being given the choices they are owed from VA. This legislation will help make certain VA fulfills its mission to care for veterans by safeguarding care in the community, expanding access to care for veterans with mental health and substance use disorders, empowering veterans with the information they need to make the health care decisions that best serve them and requiring VA to improve quality of care.”

Moran indicated that the legislation would codify and expand the current criteria established in the MISSION Act to determine when a veteran is eligible for community care and ensure the VA operates in a way that promotes access to care for veterans instead of hinders it.

According to the Senator, this would be done through better-educating veterans about their options under the MISSION Act and require greater accountability and transparency from VA leaders. He said the HEALTH Act would also require the VA to take meaningful steps to embrace innovation and value-based care.

“Coming from a military family, ensuring our servicemembers receive the care and benefits they have earned is personal to me,” Sinema said. “That is why we’re improving the VA Community Care Program to provide stability and certainty to Arizona veterans in need of care.”

Moran noted that the legislation is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Wounded Warrior Project, The American Legion, America’s Warrior Partnership, The Independence Fund, Concerned Veterans for America and the National Defense Committee.

Specifically, the Senators said the bill would:

  • Codify current community care access standards as a baseline to prevent administrations from restricting veteran choice.
  • Clarify that community care access standards include extended care services such as inpatient mental health care and residential rehabilitation substance use treatment - except of nursing home care.
  • Ensure the VA discusses telehealth with veterans as an option for care when and where appropriate.
  • Stiputae that if a veteran and their provider decide that it is in the veteran’s best interest to seek community care that decision is final.
  • Require the VA to educate and inform veterans of their eligibility for community care in a timely manner and if a veteran’s request for community care is denied, veterans are informed of the reason for denial and how to appeal it.
  • Require VA to consider and document preferences on when, where and how to seek care and whether a veteran requires a caregiver or attendant to accompany them.
  • Direct VA to develop a multi-disciplinary working group to establish a strategic plan to transition the current VA health care system to a value-based care model shown to reduce suicide and physician burnout while improving patient outcomes.
  • Create a 3-year pilot program for veterans to receive mental health care and substance use treatment through community care network providers without ap prior VA referral.
  • Require annual assessments by the VA Inspector General about how well VA medical facilities identify veterans eligible for community care and provide that care in a timely manner.
  • Improve staffing, accountability and oversight of VA’s Office of Integrate Veteran Care, which oversees access in VA medical facilities for Care and Payment.

To read the full text of the bill, click HERE.