WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) this week helped introduce legislation to fix problems Arkansas veterans have with the Veterans Choice Program. The Veterans Choice Improvement Act of 2016 (S. 2646) makes it easier for health care providers to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure that veterans have access to the quality health care they earned.
“I have heard from many Arkansas veterans about problems with delays and access to health care they have experienced with the Veterans Choice Program. Ensuring our veterans receive the care and treatment they need is important to upholding our promise for their service and sacrifice. This bill is a critical step to eliminating the struggle they face to the services they need,” Boozman said.
The Veterans Choice Improvement Act addresses three key problems that have come to light since the creation of the Veterans Choice Program in 2014:
- Systemic confusion with accessing health care outside the VA: The VA has the legal authority to send veterans outside of the VA to receive care, but there are multiple programs, contracts and laws that confuse everyone involved. The Veterans Choice Improvement Act simplifies the process by consolidating redundant and overlapping programs into the Veterans Choice Program and creating one funding source for all non-VA care programs. This will streamline and simplify the process for veterans who need to go outside of the VA to receive care.
- Medical providers fear working with the VA, which is jeopardizing the ability of veterans to get the care they need: VA has an antiquated, slow and inefficient claims processing system that often makes it very difficult for private medical providers to work with the VA. The Veterans Choice Improvement Act requires that the VA will create a modern, secure and efficient claims submission process with industry best practices. It gives strict timelines for reimbursement to providers and includes measures to make sure that the VA meets those timelines.
- The VA does not use local medical providers to help veterans, which means veterans have to drive for hours to receive care, even for simple things like getting eyeglasses: The Veterans Choice Improvement Act allows the VA to enter into provider agreements with local providers, which will help thousands of veterans who live in areas with health care shortages to receive the care they need much more easily and conveniently.
The bill was introduced by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) are original sponsors.