Hoeven, Cramer Push for Mobile Health-Care Clinics to Serve Veterans in Rural Areas

Lawmakers Say Mobile Units Could Help Alleviate Remote Access, Patient Backlogs, Limited Capacity

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven and Congressman Kevin Cramer today pressed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to use more mobile health-care clinics to help address their challenges with remote access, patient backlogs and limited capacity. Sophisticated mobile health care units could provide timely, convenient treatment and diagnostic services to veterans living far from a VA clinic or hospital, they said.

Hoeven and Cramer made the case for the clinics at a public demonstration showcasing a mobile diagnostic clinic at American Legion Post 8 in Washington, D.C. The event was co-hosted by Fargo-based DMS Health Technologies (DMS) and TrillaMed, a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business. The companies showcased a sophisticated 3-D diagnostic imaging unit able to provide patients with both PET and CT scans for cancers and other soft tissue disorders. They also announced a collaborative effort to develop a concept vehicle equipped as a full-service mobile clinic.

“Some mobile units are already being used by the VA, the Department of Defense and other agencies that need to deliver health care services to remote areas,” Hoeven said. “It’s not a new concept. What we’re pushing for is an expansion of something the VA is already doing and has the discretion to do more of. These units can help them to reduce the backlog of patient care and provide quality care for veterans who have difficulty reaching a VA health care facility.”

“Veterans in North Dakota have difficulty accessing health care because of the great distances they must travel to VA facilities.  These mobile units give veterans in rural areas peace of mind as health care treatments are delivered to them in their local community.  We must embrace new and innovative ideas and projects like these mobile clinics to ensure our veterans have access to the best health care possible,” said Cramer.

Dubbed the 2016 Concept Truck, this mobile clinic would serve as an all-encompassing single point of contact for rural, Native American, homeless, female and other veterans in need of medical and wellness care. Furnished with the most advanced imaging, cardiovascular, pulmonary and other technology, the Concept Truck will not only empower VA hospitals with the capabilities they need to treat chronic conditions and other ailments prevalent among veterans, but also expand its reach without a need for capital investment.

Hoeven and Cramer also pressed for expanded use of the mobile clinics in a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, saying the units could provide another tool for the VA to utilize when expanding care to veterans in rural communities. The 2014 Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which Hoeven helped to pass, allows eligible veterans to access health care from a private provider if the department is unable to schedule a timely appointment or the veteran lives more than 40 miles from a VA facility.

Hoeven has also been working with Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kans.) and a bipartisan group of senators to pass the Access to Community Care for Veterans Act. The legislation would allow vets to access health care from a private provider when the nearest VA facility within 40 miles driving distance does not provide the necessary care. That legislation passed the Senate last week and is currently in the House, Congressman Cramer is working to pass this legislation in the House.

Congressman Cramer is co-sponsoring H.R. 572, the “Veterans Access to Community Care Act of 2015”.  Last year, Congress overwhelmingly passed H.R. 3230, the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, which allows veterans to access health care outside the VA system if they lived more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility.  Unfortunately, the VA has interpreted the law to apply the 40-mile eligibility criteria in a manner taking into account only how far a veteran lives from a VA medical facility regardless if the facility can provide the medical services a veteran requires.  H.R. 572 would ensure the VA offers access to community care if a veteran lives within 40 miles of a VA medical facility if it cannot provide the care a veteran requires.

“VA acknowledges that additional resources in certain areas will be required to ensure that the VA system can continue to provide timely, high quality health care services,” Hoeven and Cramer wrote to McDonald. “We urge you to examine this proposed technology as one that can help reduce the backlog of unmet health care needs. It is essential that our veterans, who have sacrificed so much for the defense of our nation, have access to timely and quality care.” The complete letter can be found here.