What is the GHAPS Act, and why is it important to veterans?
The Guaranteeing Healthcare Access to Personnel Who Served (GHAPS) Act represents a crucial step in putting veterans at the center of their health care.
The bill would build on the foundational success of the VA MISSION Act, a landmark law that empowered more veterans with greater choice over where they access medical care.
The GHAPS Act would improve veterans’ health care by providing clarity around the guidelines for accessing community care and creating more transparency into VA wait times.
Here are the details.
The GHAPS Act provides clear guidance for community care
The VA MISSION Act required the VA to update its criteria for determining how and when veterans could access non-VA care. The VA created eligibility standards that cut down the time veterans were waiting for care, or the distance veterans had to drive to their closest VA facilities.
A veteran is eligible for community care if:
- Wait times for appointments are from the veteran’s date of request:
- More than 20 days for primary and mental health care
- More than 28 days for specialty care
- Drive times from the veteran’s residence to appointments are:
- More than 30 minutes for primary or mental health care
- More than 60 minutes for specialty care
- The VA doesn’t provide the service the veteran needs.
- Community care is in the best medical interest of the veteran.
The GHAPS Act would protect these access standards by writing the criteria into law rather than leaving them as regulations that can be changed at a whim. Veterans need – and deserve – clear standards for accessing care.
In short, the GHAPS Act ensures that community care access is here to stay.
The GHAPS Act creates transparency into wait times
Writing access standards into law is a necessary improvement. The logical follow up is to ensure veterans know what the wait times actually are at their local VA facility .
The VA has a history of avoiding transparency concerning wait times.
The Phoenix VA scandal revealed VA employees were keeping secret lists of actual wait times for appointments, leading to the VA MISSION Act eventually being passed.
Even now, FOIA documents show the VA is manipulating its wait time data to keep more veterans in the VA system and skirt current access standards.
The GHAPS Act would require the VA to publish the average wait time from the date a veteran requests an appointment. This transparency ensures the VA can’t manipulate the wait times and equips veterans with knowledge of whether they are eligible for community care.
The GHAPS Act eases scheduling for veterans
The GHAPS Act would also look to the private sector for better ways to empower veterans in their care.
Under the bill, a pilot program would be created to allow veterans to self-schedule their appointments rather than going through a scheduler.
Self-scheduling is common practice in private sector health care. Bringing this practice to the VA would make it easier for veterans to access care without getting stuck in the bureaucracy and red tape of scheduling staff.
The GHAPS Act drives better access to telehealth
Telehealth has been a lifeline for veterans around the country for many kinds of care, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s especially helpful for rural veterans without immediate access to medical facilities.
The GHAPS Act would build on the successes and innovation of telehealth by requiring the VA to do a comprehensive study of this method of delivering health care. Once the study is complete, policymakers and the VA can expand telehealth services using the lessons they learned.
Tell your lawmaker to support the GHAPS Act to make sure veterans have access to timely, quality care.