Hoeven CoSponsors, Senate Passes Legislation to Extend Veterans Choice Program

Senator Promoting Veterans Care Coordination Initiative in Fargo as a Model to Address Scheduling Issues in Choice Program across the Nation

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the U.S. Senate has passed legislation he cosponsored to extend the Veterans Choice Program, which was set to expire in August. The measure, introduced by Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), allows the program to continue until its original funding is fully expended, ensuring veterans can benefit from the $950 million in appropriated funding for the program that would have otherwise gone unused.

Further, the bill allows the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to serve as the primary payer under the Choice Program, alleviating the difficulties providers have faced in receiving payment for services, and improves the sharing of medical records between the VA and community providers, which will reduce wait times for appointments and strengthen care coordination.

“This legislation ensures our veterans continue to have access to more health care options closer to home,” Hoeven said. “We have worked hard to ensure that the Veterans Choice Program works well in our state through our Veterans Care Coordination Initiative. We continue working to ensure timely appointments for our veterans across the nation. That’s why I have invited Secretary Shulkin to our state, to use our initiative and the good work of the Fargo VA as a model to continue making improvements in our nation’s care for veterans.”

Hoeven continues his efforts to build on the success of the Veterans Care Coordination initiative at the Fargo VA, which he secured and worked to implement with federal and local officials, including veteran service officers and VA administrators. VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin recently accepted the senator’s invitation to visit North Dakota and see firsthand local efforts to improve care for veterans, including the initiative. Hoeven is promoting the initiative as a model to help address delays in scheduling appointments through the Veterans Choice Program across the nation.

The Veterans Care Coordination initiative grew out of a series of meetings and listening roundtables Hoeven held with veterans around the state in both large and small communities. It allows veterans seeking care through the Choice Program to coordinate all of their health care needs through the Fargo VA Medical Center rather than Health Net, a third party contractor headquartered in California. As a result, the average time from initial call to a scheduled community appointment decreased from nearly 24 days in April to four and a half days in December.

In addition, the program arranges to have a Health Net staff member at the Fargo VA so providers can work with the Fargo VA to improve provider reimbursements and reduce denials of veterans’ claims.