Arlington, VA – Today, Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO) introduced the Veterans Empowerment Act, a bill that will fundamentally reform the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and offer all veterans who use the VA the option to access care in the private sector. Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) is urging veterans and concerned citizens across the nation to contact their legislators in support of the new bill.
The bill expands veterans’ health care choices by creating a veterans’ health insurance program and allowing veterans to use their benefits inside or outside of the VA system. The bill would also establish better oversight of the VA health care system while increasing transparency regarding the VA’s performance.
CVA Executive Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“The seemingly endless stream of stories about veterans receiving delayed or poor-quality health care at the VA demonstrates the current VA medical system is not set up to effectively serve our veterans. Those who put their lives on the line for our country deserve the best health care possible, and the Veterans Empowerment Act would ensure that they receive it.
“We can’t leave the VA medical system in its current state and expect results to improve for our veterans. This is a historic opportunity to finally go beyond the failed status quo at the VA and provide veterans with the best care possible. We applaud Rep. Lamborn for introducing this bill and strongly urge Congress to pass it into law.”
Since its inception in 2012, CVA has advocated for reforming and fixing the VA. In 2014, CVA launched the VA Accountability Project, which advocated for more accountability for VA employees and more health care choice for veterans. Later that year, CVA convened the bipartisan Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce, which in 2015 released the Fixing Veterans Health Care Task Force Report. This report serves as the group’s comprehensive proposal for health care reform at the VA.
In 2014, Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act in response to the VA wait list scandal. This bill created the Veterans Choice Program, which only offered limited choice to veterans who satisfied certain requirements. Under the Choice Program, veterans must meet the “40-mile, 30-day” rule, which only allows veterans to seek care outside the VA if they can’t be seen within a month of when they request an appointment or if they can’t be seen within a 40-mile radius. Even then, many veterans are forced to jump through bureaucratic hoops to access the program, which was poorly-implemented and only intended to serve as a temporary measure.
The Choice Program recently faced a budget shortfall and is expected to run out of money again at the beginning of next year unless it is replaced with a more effective and sustainable method of offering veterans at the VA health care choice.