Military Connection: VA Reform Bill Sweeps House: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014

On Tuesday, June 10, the House passed the Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014. The bill, H.R. 4810, was unanimously approved in the House with 426 votes in favor, 0 votes against and only five congressmen abstaining. Bills in the U.S. House of Representative only require a two-thirds vote to the legislation in order to move on to the Senate.

The Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014 offers Veterans who have been on waiting lists for treatment, and Veterans living in rural areas, an option to use private medical providers as part of their VA healthcare. Included in the bill is the call for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter contracts with non-VA medical facilities in order to provide the best quality medical care to Veterans in a reasonable amount of time.

The bill specifically addresses the needs of Veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system, who

-Have waited longer than the wait-time goals for an appointment

-Have been notified by VA facility that an appointment, service, or treatment will not be available to them within the stated wait-time standard

-Reside more than 40 miles from their VA medical facility

If approved by the Senate and signed by the president, the legislation would give the secretary of the VA 120 days from its enactment to implement the changes. The VA secretary will also be required to issue quarterly reports to Congress. The reports will contain information that includes: 1) how many Veterans receive care at non-VA facilities, 2) how many Veterans were eligible to seek treatment at non-VA facilities, but chose to wait for VA care,  3) information on the purchase methods used to provide the care and services at non-VA facilities, including the rate of payment to the facilities, and 4) any other matters that the VA secretary deems appropriate.

The bill also calls for denying bonuses and awards to VA employees for fiscal years 2014-2016.

The Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014 now moves on to the Senate, where similar legislation has already been introduced. Let us hope that similar bipartisan agreement can be reached in the Senate as was shown in the House. After more than twelve years of war and the increasing ages of those who fought in earlier wars, the men and women who served their country deserve to be taken care of. Let us hope that The Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014, or legislation with similar goals, makes it through to help the country’s Veterans.

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Military Connection: VA Reform Bill Sweeps House: By Debbie Gregory