Hoeven Hosts Veterans Health Care Roundtable

Outlines Work to Improve Veterans' Access to Health Care, Extended Care Closer to Home

WILLISTON, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today led a roundtable meeting to update area veterans on his work to improve veterans’ access to health care and extended care in their local communities. The roundtable included veterans, representatives from local veteran service organizations, Veterans Service Officers (VSO) and representatives from the Fargo Veterans Administration Medical Center.

“North Dakota is a very large state, which can make it a real hardship for our veterans in rural areas to get basic services like physical therapy, diagnostic imaging and other necessary medical procedures,” Hoeven said. “That’s why we’re working very hard to make it easier for our veterans to receive services and extended care near where they live so that they can be close to their family and friends. We have legislation that makes it easier for local health-care providers to accept veteran patients without additional requirements. This is important to our veterans and their families and will help us to better keep our nation’s promise to care for the men and women who have served our country so well.”

The Access to Community Care for Veterans Act will allow veterans to get health-care services, including diagnostic imaging, physical therapy and other services, near their homes, family and friends.

In July, Congress approved a $3.3 billion fix to fill a shortfall in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) budget, which is helping some veterans get local care. Others, however, are still experiencing delays and denials for local services. Hoeven said the real fix would be to pass the Access to Community Care for Veterans Act, legislation introduced by Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and cosponsored by Hoeven and a bipartisan group of senators.

The Moran-Hoeven measure, which the Senate passed in May, amends the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act) to allow veterans to obtain health care services in their local community if a VA Medical Center or Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) within 40 miles can’t provide the service needed.. The measure still needs to be taken up by the House.

The Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act will enable veterans to get nursing home and other extended care services near their homes, family and friends.

Hoeven has also worked to introduce the Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act, legislation that allows the VA to enter into provider agreements with qualified health-care and extended-care facilities. The bill would encourage more local providers to accept veteran patients without having to comply with federal contracting requirements. 

Currently, the VA is authorized to enter into federal contracts with non-VA providers to provide services to veterans, but onerous reporting requirements administered by the Office of Federal Contracting Compliance Programs (OFCCP) have prevented many long term care (LTC) facilities from admitting VA patients. As a result, only 15 out of 80 nursing homes in North Dakota currently contract with the VA.

By contrast, the same LTC facilities contracting with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are not subject to the OFCCP regulations. The Senators’ legislation would make the VA requirements for providers the same as they are for CMS. It would provide the VA with the authority it needs to make this change permanent and enter into provider agreements with extended care service providers. That includes nursing centers, geriatric evaluation, domiciliary services, adult day health care, respite care, palliative care, hospice care and home health care. This gives our former servicemen and women more options to access long-term care services closer to their homes, families and friends.

Hoeven has worked in the senate to garner the necessary support for the legislation. He has met regularly with VA Secretary Robert McDonnell to secure his support for the bill. Additionally, the American Health Care Association (AHCA), the nation’s largest association of long-term and post-acute care providers, strongly endorses the bill. The North Dakota Long Term Care Association is an affiliate of the AHCA.