Hoeven Outlines Ongoing Efforts to Strengthen Veteran Benefits, Improve Access to Health Care & Long-Term Care Closer to Home

Senator Reviews 2018 Accomplishments, Discusses Priorities in the New Congress

BISMARCK, N.D. – At the North Dakota Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Mid-Winter Conference today, Senator John Hoeven outlined veterans legislation he worked to pass last year and his priorities in the new Congress to provide better health care and benefits for veterans in North Dakota and across the nation, including improving access to alternative treatments for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) to bolster suicide prevention efforts. 

Over the past year, the Senate approved and the President signed into law 15 pieces of legislation to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and strengthen veteran benefits. Hoeven worked to pass each of these bills, including theVA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act. This bipartisan legislation improves on the Veterans Choice Program (VCP) and includes key provisions from Hoeven’s legislation to increase veterans’ access to long-term care options in their home communities.

Further, as a member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Committee, Hoeven helped ensure the Fiscal Year 2019 funding legislation provided strong support for veterans’ services, including:

  • Mental health and suicide prevention services.
  • Opioid abuse prevention and treatment programs.
  • Homeless assistance programs.
  • Support for veteran caregivers.
  • Advancing efforts to provide veterans with greater health care and long-term care options closer to home.

“Our men and women in uniform have earned their benefits through their tremendous service to this nation,” Hoeven said. “That’s why we’ve focused on funding critical VA services and reforming the VA’s community care programs, which will help them access these benefits. The VA MISSION Act will provide veterans with more health care and long-term care options closer to home, but only if we ensure that it is implemented properly. At the same time, our Veterans Care Coordination initiative provides a successful model for scheduling community care appointments. Accordingly, my priorities moving forward are to maintain this initiative at the Fargo VA and ensure the expertise and input of our local VA professionals, veteran service organizations and the veterans themselves are utilized by the administration in enacting this important piece of legislation.”

Among other things, Hoeven’s continued efforts in the 116th Congress include:

Improving Suicide Prevention and Treatment for PTSD, TBI

The VA has stated that its top clinical priority is suicide prevention. In order to support this critical effort, Hoeven continues working to improve the VA’s mental health care programs, including for veterans undergoing treatment for PTSD and TBI. To this end, Hoeven is encouraging the VA to expand access to alternative treatment options, including Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), for those veterans who have yet to experience positive outcomes.

Ensuring the Smooth Implementation of the VA MISSION Act

The senator is 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. This includes the provisions Hoeven secured in the legislation that allow the VA to enter into provider agreements with qualified long-term care facilities, enabling more of these facilities to accept veteran patients. To date, Hoeven has worked to secure the support of VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma in advancing this priority.

Maintaining the Veterans Care Coordination Initiative at the Fargo VA

In 2016, Hoeven worked to implement the Veterans Care Coordination initiative at the Fargo VA Health Care System, which has helped to significantly reduce wait times for North Dakota veterans seeking health care services under the VCP. The initiative has since been expanded to multiple sites around the country.

Hoeven recently urged TriWest, the nationwide third party administrator for the VCP, to maintain the Veterans Care Coordination initiative at the Fargo VA. Further, he continues to encourage the VA to use the initiative as a model for scheduling veterans’ community care appointments.

Expanding Flight-Training Programs for Veterans

Hoeven plans to reintroduce the American Aviator Act, bipartisan legislation to support flight-training services to assist veterans who want to become commercial airline pilots.