Bill Consolidates Private Health Care for Veterans

Washington Report

(November 7, 2017) Members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee have introduced the VA Care in the Community Act, H.R. 4242, which they say will streamline the ability of veterans to receive care in the private sector.

The bipartisan bill’s main goal is to consolidate the Department of Veterans Affairs six methods of referring patients to community care into one. This will clear up confusion among veterans when one VA policy conflicts with another, according to information from the committee.

“This bill will consolidate all the VA community care programs into a single system, making it easier for veterans to receive care closer to home and encouraging more community providers to participate,” said Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., a committee member.

The bill addresses weaknesses in the VA Choice Program that allows veterans who live far from a VA facility or have endured a lengthy wait for an appointment to seek care from a private provider. That program was popular, but plagued with problems such as late payments to providers.

The new legislation, introduced Friday, does away with any restrictions regarding distance and waiting periods. It also would make the program permanent rather than require Congress to continually fund it.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., the committee’s ranking member, said, “While this bill continues to be a work in progress, it’s a good first step in addressing the challenges veterans and providers have faced with the VA Choice Program.”