The Chairs of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees have announced that they have reached an agreement on legislation to address the health care access crisis at VA.
To quickly address access problems, the legislation will generally allow veterans who are currently enrolled in the VA health system or who are newly discharged combat veterans to access non-VA care if they can’t receive timely VA provided care or live over 40 miles from a VA facility. The legislation also increases accountability for those VA managers who are not ethically or effectively performing their duties. In addition, the legislation will help VA increase its ability to serve veterans by providing funding that will allow VA to hire needed health care providers and rehabilitate aging infrastructure.
VetsFirst is pleased to report that the legislation also expands the VA’s Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (AL-TBI). The AL-TBI pilot program, originally authorized by the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, was scheduled to expire in September. The pilot program’s extension will ensure that these veterans are able to access the speech language pathology, occupational training, and independent living skills they need to help them reintegrate into their communities. Expansion of this pilot program has been a top priority for VetsFirst.
Overall, the compromise represents an important step in helping veterans who are waiting to receive care more immediate access to care. It also provides VA with a down payment on the resources needed to ensure that the VA health care system remains strong. In our view, however, this compromise must represent only the first step in helping veterans to better access the care they need, when they need it. We must have continuing oversight by Congress to ensure that VA has the funds it needs and that those funds are used in the most efficient and effective ways possible.