Hoeven Outlines Efforts to Expand Long-Term Care & Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Veterans

Senator Addresses AMVETS State Convention, Also Working to Maintain Veterans Care Coordination Initiative at Fargo VA under New Community Care Program

FARGO, N.D. – At the AMVETS Department of North Dakota state convention today, Senator John Hoeven outlined his efforts to ensure veterans can access the convenient, quality care that they have earned. To this end, Hoeven is working to:

  • Ensure the VA gives qualified long-term care (LTC) providers only one set of regulations to comply with, consistent with his Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act.
    • Currently, only about 20 percent of North Dakota’s nursing homes contract with the VA. Hoeven’s legislation would enable more LTC providers to contract with the VA and allow more veterans to receive these services in their home communities.
  • Include a North Dakota hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) facility in the VA’s clinical demonstration program.
    • Hoeven has secured a commitment from VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to visit North Dakota, which the senator is leveraging to help improve access to HBOT for veterans in North Dakota and western Minnesota.
    • This will allow veterans in the region to access an alternative treatment option for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Advance the proper implementation of the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act and maintain the Veterans Care Coordination Initiative at the Fargo VA.

“Last Congress, we passed significant legislation to reform the health care veterans receive through the VA and ensure they have more convenient options closer to home,” Hoeven said. “Moving forward, we should stay focused on these goals and make sure the law is properly implemented. That includes my legislation to allow more long-term care facilities to contract with the VA as well as the new community care program under the VA MISSION Act. We’re also seeking to expand access to alternative treatment options, like HBOT, and are working to bring Secretary Wilkie to the state to advance this priority.”

Removing Duplicative Regulations for LTC Providers

Key provisions of Hoeven’s legislation, the Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act, were signed into law last year as part of the VA MISSION Act. This law allows the VA to enter into Veterans Care Agreements (VCAs) with qualified LTC providers, including nursing homes.

The VA recently announced an interim final rule establishing the parameters for the Department’s agreements with community care providers. Hoeven is working to ensure the new VCA’s remove the existing duplicative layers of review for LTC providers and match the standards under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which would provide relief from expensive federal contracting requirements and enable more long-term care providers to accept veteran patients. In addition, Hoeven helped schedule a webinar between the VA’s Office of Community Care and LTC providers in order to ensure that the VA can hear directly from providers with questions and feedback on the rule.

Advancing Alternative Mental Health Treatments

The VA has stated that its top clinical priority is suicide prevention. As part of his efforts to improve the VA’s mental health care programs, Hoeven is encouraging the VA to expand access to alternative treatment options, like HBOT, for veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) who have yet to experience positive outcomes.

VA MISSION Act & Veterans Care Coordination Initiative

The senator also continues working with local stakeholders and veterans in North Dakota as well as administration officials to ensure the VA MISSION Act achieves the intent of Congress and provides veterans with better access to health care closer to home. In addition to Hoeven’s LTC legislation, his priorities 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.
  • Maintaining the Veterans Care Coordination Initiative at the Fargo VA.
    • Hoeven worked with the local VA to establish the initiative in 2016, which helped reduce wait times for veterans scheduling community care appointments. Due to the initiative’s success, it has been expanded to sites around the country.
    • Hoeven secured a commitment from TriWest, the third party administrator selected by the VA last year, to continue the initiative in North Dakota. Hoeven also continues advocating for the VA to use the initiative as a template for scheduling veteran appointments more broadly.