Hoeven Advancing Implementation of VA MISSION Act & LTC Legislation to Ensure Veterans Can Access Local Providers

Senator Outlines Work to Ensure Timely Community Care Appointments, Expand Access to Alternative Treatments for PTSD & TBI

MINOT, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today brought together officials from the Fargo Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care System, veteran service organizations and local veterans for a roundtable, where he outlined his efforts to:

  • Ensure the proper implementation of the VA MISSION Act, including key provisions of the senator’s Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act.
  • Maintain the Veterans Care Coordination initiative at the Fargo VA to ensure community care appointments are scheduled in a timely manner.
  • Secure expanded access to suicide prevention services and alternative treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

“The VA MISSION Act was a landmark piece of legislation for our nation’s veterans, meant to give them access to more convenient and quality health care options in their home communities,” said Hoeven. “That’s why we continue to prioritize its implementation, so we achieve the best possible outcome for veterans, which includes getting rid of duplicative and costly regulations so more long-term care facilities can accept veteran patients. At the same time, we want this to be a smooth transition, which is why we are working with the VA and TriWest to maintain the Veterans Care Coordination initiative in Fargo. While we continue these efforts, we are also looking ahead toward the other ways we can improve the services available to veterans. We increasingly recognize the need for improved mental health care services through the VA, which is an ongoing priority and includes expanding access to alternative treatment options, like hyperbaric oxygen therapy.” 

Implementation of the VA MISSION Act & LTC Legislation

Hoeven has been working with the administration, local stakeholders to ensure the VA MISSION Act achieves the intent of Congress and provides veterans with better access to health care closer to home. This includes his legislation allowing the VA to enter into Veterans Care Agreements (VCAs) with qualified long-term care facilities.

Accordingly, Hoeven has been pressing the administration to ensure the VA gives qualified long-term care (LTC) providers only one set of regulations with which to comply. Currently, only about 20 percent of North Dakota’s nursing homes contract with the VA. By removing the existing duplicative layers of review for LTC providers and matching the standards under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), more long-term care providers would be able to accept veteran patients.

In addition to his LTC legislation, Hoeven’s priorities under the VA MISSION Act include:

  • Expanding caregiver benefits for veterans of all eras.
  • Removing the arbitrary 30-day/40-mile rule, which acted as a barrier to veterans receiving care in their home communities.

Veterans Care Coordination Initiative at the Fargo VA

In 2016, Hoeven worked to implement the Veterans Care Coordination initiative at the Fargo VA Health Care System, which helped to significantly reduce wait times for North Dakota veterans seeking health care services under the Veterans Choice Program (VCP). Due to its success, the initiative has been expanded to multiple sites around the country.

In June, the VA implemented the VA MISSION Act and launched the new Veterans Community Care Program, which replaces the VCP. In preparation for the transition, Hoeven urged TriWest, the current third party administrator, to maintain the initiative at the Fargo VA. Hoeven continues to work with the Fargo VA and TriWest in order to ensure that veterans community care appointments are scheduled promptly as the new community care program rolls out.

Suicide Prevention and Treatment for PTSD, TBI

Additionally, Hoeven is working to improve the VA’s mental health care programs, including for veterans undergoing treatment for PTSD and TBI. That includes urging the VA to expand access to alternative treatment options, including Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), for those veterans who have yet to experience positive outcomes.

Hoeven has secured a commitment from VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to visit North Dakota, which the senator is leveraging to advance the inclusion of a local HBOT facility in the VA’s clinical demonstration program. Doing so would improve access to this treatment option for veterans in North Dakota and western Minnesota.