Hoeven Presses VA Secretary to Allow Veterans Greater Access to Local Long Term Care Services

FARGO, N.D. – At a press conference at Elim Rehab and Care Center in Fargo today, Senator John Hoeven announced that he is pressing Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Sloan Gibson to allow veterans more options for long term care (LTC) services in their home communities. The bipartisan effort is being led on the Democratic side by Senator Tom Carper of Delaware.

In a letter sent yesterday, Hoeven led a group of 41 Senate colleagues in pressing Secretary Gibson to finalize a rule that would authorize the VA to enter into agreements with additional long term care providers such as nursing homes, hospices and respite care facilities, expanding the availability of these services for veterans. A copy of the letter can be found here.

Currently, the VA is authorized to enter into agreements with long term care providers enabling them to provide services to veterans, but onerous federal reporting requirements have prevented many LTC facilities from admitting VA patients. As a result, only 15 out of 80 nursing homes currently contract with the VA in North Dakota.

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.

“Through their honorable sacrifices and service to our nation, our veterans have earned the benefits they were promised, and accessible long-term care services near supportive family and friends are no exception” said Hoeven. “We need to do all we can to make sure that veterans can access the care they need without leaving their community, family and friends far behind. I am asking Secretary Gibson to ease the regulatory burdens our small, long-term care providers face when contracting with the VA, which will expand access and choice for veterans who need these services.”

This letter is the latest in the senator’s efforts to allow veterans in western North Dakota to use local health care providers. Last week, 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 CBOC. The bill will now go to conference with House-passed legislation.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Senator Hoeven has also worked to secure adequate funding for the VA, which has increased by 60 percent since Fiscal Year 2009.

Also attending the press conference were President of the North Dakota Long Term Care Association Shelly Peterson and Elim Care Campus Administrator Tim Hager, as well as representatives from local veterans service organizations (VSOs). Hoeven’s letter was co-signed by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).