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Two solutions for VA reform, but only one will give veterans more choices over care

Capitol building with reflections at dusk

By Concerned Veterans for America

Veterans Day may have passed, but we can recognize and honor veterans every day, starting with better health care. 

In a recent piece in the Washington Examiner, CVA Executive Director Russ Duerstine shines a light on how the Department of Veterans Affairs is getting around the law and limiting veterans’ health treatment options: 

The Department of Veterans Affairs has a mission to care for those who’ve served. But the VA routinely, as a matter of policy, stands in the way of veterans accessing timely and quality care.  

Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show the VA has actively discouraged veterans from using community care, an option veterans have under law to seek care from providers outside of the VA if the agency can’t schedule an appointment soon or close enough. Administrators have also added extra layers of bureaucratic review of referrals to community care to ensure they are “appropriate” and even attempts to dissuade veterans from using this option when they call to ask for it.   

What’s appropriate is empowering veterans to make health care choices that are best for them and their families, not holding them hostage at the whims of VA bureaucrats. 

Members of Congress have stepped in to fix these problems at the VA. Though as Duerstine notes, some solutions are more helpful to veterans than others.  

Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s Veterans Health Care Freedom Act is the gold standard for what VA and veterans health care reform could look like. This legislation would get veterans quicker and easier access to care, whether that care comes from the VA or the community.  

This isn’t just good for veterans, it’s also good for the VA because it would relieve some of the pressure on an overwhelmed system.  

In contrast, legislation such as Sen. Jon Tester’s Making Community Care Work for Veterans Act doesn’t fully embrace empowering veterans to take control of their care. Rather, it prioritizes the VA over the veteran, putting restrictions on mental health care access and leaving the VA in place as a gatekeeper before allowing veterans into community care. 

Veterans don’t need lip service or “solutions” to their health care issues that don’t solve the root problem. They need to be in control of their own care, with the freedom to make decisions that are best for them 

Read more of Russ Duerstine’s piece on VA reform options in the Washington Examiner.