Hoeven Holds Health Care Roundtable with Dickinson Area Veterans

Senator Outlines Work to Ensure Veterans Can Access Health Care Services Closer to Home, Expand Access to Long Term Care Facilities

DICKINSON, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today convened a health care roundtable with Dickinson area veterans, local healthcare providers, Fargo Veterans Affairs officials and veterans service officers. The senator has been working to ensure that North Dakota veterans have access to timely and quality health care and long term care services closer to home, while also addressing the problems with the Veteran’s Administration (VA) nationally.

Specifically, the senator has been pressing the VA to ensure:

  • Veterans are getting health care services in a timely manner
  • Veterans in North Dakota can access health care services more conveniently in their local communities rather than having to travel a long distance to the VA Medical Center in Fargo when their Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) can’t provide a necessary service.
  • The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department completes a provider agreement allowing veterans to access local long-term care facilities
  • Veterans nationally can see health care providers in their local community to reduce wait times and make it more convenient for them when wait times at their local VA facility are excessively long

“Our veterans have earned high quality, accessible and timely health care services, whether they live in Fargo, Dickinson or a community in between,” said Hoeven. “We’re working to ensure that we not only address the problems with the VA nationally, but also that we ensure veterans here in North Dakota have access to health care services reasonably close to home. A veteran shouldn’t have to drive 800 miles to receive routine care if that service can be administered by a provider closer to home.”

In early June, Hoeven pushed to pass bipartisan legislation to reform the VA and ensure that veterans receive timely care, in part by allowing veterans to receive care from the doctor or provider of their choice if the VA cannot schedule an appointment for a veteran within 14 days or the veteran resides more than 40 miles from any VA medical center (VAMC) or Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC).

Hoeven continues working to clarify language in the bill to ensure that veterans can access a nearby health care provider if their local CBOC or VAMC cannot provide the required service. The senator has been pressing the VA to allow veterans in western North Dakota to use local health care providers when the CBOC cannot provide a necessary service.

Since Fiscal Year 2009, funding for the VA has increased by 60 percent. At the same time, the VA has carried over a share of its budget in recent years, including $450 million it expects to carry over in Fiscal Year 2015. Further, Congress explicitly exempted the VA from sequestration, and the VA’s medical care accounts receive advanced appropriations to ensure predictability and proper planning.

Helping Vets Get LTC Closer to Home

Hoeven has also been working to expand access to long term care so veterans can stay closer to their homes and communities. Last week, Hoeven led a bipartisan group of 43 senators in pressing Acting Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Sloan Gibson to finalize a rule that would make it easier for long term care (LTC) providers like nursing homes, hospices and respite care facilities to serve veterans. Currently, the VA is authorized to enter into agreements with long term providers, but onerous federal reporting requirements have prevented many LTC facilities from admitting VA patients. In North Dakota, only 15 out of 80 nursing homes currently contract with the VA.

In contrast, the same LTC facilities contracting with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have no such reporting requirements. They need only comply with federal hiring practices. The proposed rule, issued in February 2013, would make the VA reporting requirements for providers the same as they are for CMS, which means more long term care facilities can serve veterans. That would give veterans more options to get services closer to home, family and friends.

Hoeven has also recently hosted meetings in Fargo and Williston for North Dakota veterans to meet with VA officials and health care leaders to ensure that the veterans needs are being met. The senator serves as a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.

The roundtable included veterans from Stark County as well as Fargo VA Medical Center Director LaVonne Liversage, Williams County Veterans Service Officer Grant Carns, Stark County Assistant Veterans Service Officer Jessica Clifton, Morton County Veterans Service Officer Ron Otto, St. Joseph’s Hospital-Dickinson President and CEO Reed Reyman, Sanford Health Clinic Administrator Amy Kreidt and former state senator and veteran George Nodland and Stark County Commissioner and veteran Duane Wolfe.