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House Veterans Affairs Committee Must Expand VA Choice for Veterans

By Concerned Veterans for America

Arlington, VA – Today the House Veterans Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on legislative proposals that will reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) community care programs and the Veterans Choice Program.

The proposals – including one by the VA and one by the House VA Committee – would consolidate the VA’s community care programs and reform the Veterans Choice Program. Both House VA Chairman Phil Roe and VA Secretary David Shulkin have advocated for veterans to have greater control over the care they receive.

Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:

“These proposals contain some positive reforms but there is room for improvement – especially in regard to increasing health care choice for veterans. The proposals still give the VA too much control over when a veteran can seek care outside of the Veterans Health Administration. Keeping the VA, and not the veteran, at the center of the VA health care system will perpetuate the issues that prevent many veterans from accessing the care they need. We will continue to work with Congress to ensure veterans are empowered with real choice over their health care.”

CVA is supporting the following modifications to the House VA Committee’s draft legislation: allowing an eligible veteran to choose any primary care physician within their VA integrated care network – regardless of whether they are at the VHA or a contracted community provider; creating an appeals process for veterans who feel they were wrongly denied referrals to specialty care outside of the VHA; returning the VA to a secondary payor status for veterans with other health insurance for non-service connected care in the community; and, authorizing the pilot programs that were proposed as part of Secretary Shulkin’s CARE plan to be implemented.

The Veterans Choice Program, which was enacted under the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act, was intended as a temporary solution to the wait list scandal of 2014. The program was flawed and has been implemented poorly. Despite emergency funding authorized by Congress and signed into law earlier this year to keep the program afloat, the Choice Program is reported to run out of funds by the end of the year.

Along with eliminating the 30-day, 40-mile rule, Secretary Shulkin has supported creating a system that allows veterans to choose whether private sector or VA care is in their best interest.

CVA has advocated for sweeping choice reforms at the VA for years. In CVA’s Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce, the group advocates that veterans should have the option to take their earned health care benefits and use them to access care at the VA or in the private sector.