(October 24, 2017) NGAUS backs proposed changes to the Department of Veterans Affairs Choice program, which allows veterans to seek care from private-sector providers. The changes included in draft legislation of the House Veterans Affairs Committee would do away with distance and wait-time requirements, make the program permanent, ease the sharing of medical records, and establish a network of providers in the private sector, among other changes.
Retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president, made the association’s support clear in written testimony that was submitted to the committee during a hearing Tuesday morning.
“With this legislation to reform the Veterans Choice Program, you have again proposed much needed changes to increase benefits equity and access to health care for our veterans of the National Guard,” he wrote.
The committee’s draft legislation, Robinson wrote, clarifies the qualifications for the program.
“This legislation does not take VA out of the equation,” he wrote. “In fact, it puts the VA in the center of an apparatus that is targeted toward ensuring veterans receive access to health care. Only in cases where the VA is unable to assign their own primary health care provider will a veteran have the flexibility to choose a primary provider within their community from the contracted provider networks established by the VA.”
Robinson also mentions the association’s support for S. 1566, the CARE for Reservists Act of 2017 introduced by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. The bill would expand access for Guardsmen to readjustment counseling at VA Veterans Centers and outpatient care.
“While National Guard and Reserve servicemembers undergo annual health assessments to identify medical issues, any follow-up treatment is done at the servicemember’s expense,” Robinson wrote.
He pointed out, too, that 25 percent of Guardsmen, about 114,000 soldiers and airmen, have no health insurance, “which is a serious readiness issue in and of itself.”