Hoeven Presses VA Secretary to Support Veterans Choice Improvement Bill, Resolve Issues With Third Party Administrators

Senator Arranging Meeting with Top VA Officials and Fargo VA Center

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, Senator John Hoeven pressed U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert A. McDonald to improve the Veterans Choice Program and resolve scheduling issues with the third party administrators. Hoeven thanked the secretary for agreeing to send a top VA official to meet with representatives from the Fargo VA to see firsthand issues veterans face when scheduling non-VA care appointments through the Choice Program.

“We need to improve the Veterans Choice Act, which is why I’ve worked with Senator Burr and others to introduce the Veterans Choice Improvement Act,” said Hoeven. “This legislation provides important flexibility so that veterans can not only receive quality care within the VA, but also from private providers. We’ve got a big problem with third party service providers, like Health Net, that are not providing quality service. We have an opportunity to make this work, and our legislation helps empower the VA to do that.”

Veterans Choice Improvement Act of 2016

Earlier this month, Hoeven, along with Senators Richard Burr, Kelly Ayotte and Thom Tillis, introduced the Veterans Choice Improvement Act, which makes needed changes and reforms to the Veterans Choice Program to address bureaucratic delays, hassles and confusion that veterans have experienced attempting to get health care.

Hoeven worked to include a provision in the bill to prevent scheduling issues by allowing veterans to schedule appointments with private providers in their communities that have entered provider agreements with the VA. The VA has the legal authority to send veterans outside of the VA to receive care, but there are multiple programs, contracts and laws that confuse everyone involved. The eligibility requirements, reimbursement rates, funding sources and regulations that govern the programs are all different, and this creates confusion that ultimately harms veterans. The Veterans Choice Improvement Act simplifies the process by consolidating redundant and overlapping programs into the Veterans Choice Program and creating one funding source for all non-VA care programs. This will streamline and simplify the process for veterans who need to go outside of the VA to receive care. 

The legislation also includes Hoeven’s Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act, which allows the VA to enter into provider agreements with qualified health care and extended care facilities. This will enable more local care, including nursing home and in-home care providers, to accept veteran patients without having to comply with burdensome and often times expensive federal contracting requirements.

A summary of the legislation is available here.

Meeting with Fargo VA

Hoeven thanked the VA for sending a top VA official to visit North Dakota in the coming weeks and meet with officials at the Fargo VA Medical Center to resolve service issues with the third party administrator, Health Net. Hoeven has been working with the Fargo VA to try to resolve scheduling and service issues arising from the use of a third party provider. The senator pressed the VA to set up a pilot program, similar to what is being done in Alaska, which would allow the Fargo VA to directly schedule appointments under the Veterans Choice Program as opposed to relying on a third party administrator.