Lawmakers and veteran organizations are currently trying to reach an agreement regarding the terms of the VA Care in the Community Act. The Act would replace the Veterans’ Choice Program (Choice) and change the rules regarding when and where veterans can seek private health care. Some welcome these changes that give veterans more choices, whereas others want to prevent what they see as the privatization of veterans’ health care.
Choice was designed to enable the VA to increase the number of scheduled appointments and ensure that community providers receive payments. However, many veterans, lawmakers, and VA officials agree that the Choice program is complex and bureaucratic. Choice allows veterans to seek private-sector care only if they are unable to obtain an appointment within 30 days, or if they live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility. The Act would scrap this rule, instead allowing veterans and VA doctors to decide whether to seek private-sector care without specific restrictions.
Advocates of the Act argue that it is a much-needed transformation from Choice, and that it will provide better services and health care to veterans. The American Legion, a veteran organization, publicly issued its support for the bill. Legion’s national commander stated that the bill is a step toward a more integrated system with improved relationships between the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and non-VA providers.
The Act would require the VA to consider whether veterans face excessive burdens in accessing a VA facility. Excessive burdens, such as living too far away, being unable to travel due to a medical condition, and the existence of poor road conditions or hazardous weather may prompt the VA to allow veterans to receive private-sector treatment. The director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated that although the bill is not perfect, it does put veterans’ interests first. He urges the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to expediently approve the Act.
Opponents of the Act believe that it does not provide veterans with a real choice. Concerned Veterans for America is urging lawmakers to give veterans more of a choice regarding whether to receive private-sector health care. The group’s executive director states that although the House VA committee has good intentions, it is under a lot of pressure from special interests to maintain the status quo.
The VA faces a deadline as funding for Choice is expected to run out by the end of the year. The House Committee plans to advance its bill to the House floor, and the spokesperson for the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee reports that the Senate is working on its own legislation as well. The VA spokesperson says that the VA remains impartial and is working with both the House and the Senate VA committees to resolve their differences.
Pennsylvania veterans lawyers at Williams Cedar can help you obtain the benefits you deserve. For qualified assistance in obtaining VA benefits or appealing a VA denial, contact us online, or call us at 215-557-0099 for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Chester County, Bucks County, and Berks County, as well as in New Jersey and nationwide.