(November 28, 2017) Veterans could bypass the Department of Veterans Affairs completely and seek health care from civilian providers under a bill introduced last week by Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. The Veterans Empowerment Act goes beyond programs such as the VA’s Choice, which allows veterans to see private providers and send the bill to the government.
Under Lamborn’s bill, taxpayer money would pay for care, but the VA would have no role.
“It gives veterans full authority to use the existing VA system or not,” Lamborn said in a statement. “Giving them options to choose their healthcare plans and doctors is empowering. This bill means veterans, especially those with extreme disabilities, can expect to have their need taken care of quickly and efficiently.”
Military Times pointed out that the bill faces an uphill climb to approval, citing the failure of similar plans in the past. Plus, the House will discuss this week the VA Care in the Community Act, another proposal to overhaul the VA’s program that offers private care to veterans but maintains the VA physician as the main coordinator of a patient’s care.
VA Secretary David Shulkin has a plan that goes even further than the VA Care in the Community Act by loosening rules for seeking civilian care.
Sending patients to private providers is not popular with everyone. Some veterans groups and Democrats believe it robs the VA of funds. There is concern that such efforts would lead to privatization of the VA.
But Lamborn’s bill has support from conservative groups such as the Concerned Veterans for America. Dan Caldwell, the group’s executive director, said, “This is a historic opportunity to finally go beyond the failed status quo at the VA and provide veterans with the best care possible.