Hoeven Presses VA Under Secretary to Improve Veterans Services, Allow Access to Local Providers

Senator Working to Reintroduce Legislation That Would Allow Extended Care Facilities to Enter to Into VA Provider Agreements

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, Senator John Hoeven this week pressed U.S. Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy on two issues important to North Dakota veterans. The first was to provide veterans with greater access to local services when they live far from a Veterans Affairs Administration (VA)  hospital, and also to allow veterans more options for long-term care (LTC) services in their home communities.

“We need to do all we can to ensure that veterans have timely access to the health care they need, and that they have access to local long-term care services if necessary,” Hoeven said. “These are two of the most tangible and meaningful ways we can say thank you for their sacrifices on our behalf.”

Provider Agreements

Hoeven pressed the undersecretary on the need to expand the VA’s authority to enter into provider agreements with extended care facilities. These include nursing centers, geriatric evaluation, domiciliary services, adult day health care, respite care, and palliative care, hospice care, and home health care, expanding the availability of these services for veterans.

Currently, the VA is authorized to enter into contracts with extended 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. In February 2013, the VA issued a proposed rule that 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 our former servicemen and women more options to get services closer to home, family and friends. Now, however, the VA requires the statuary authority from Congress to make this change permanent. Hoeven is working to reintroduce legislation, which would allow extended care facilities to enter to into provider agreements.

Improving Veterans Access to Care

Last year, Hoeven worked to pass the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act, which provides veterans with more flexible access to health care. If the VA cannot schedule an appointment for a veteran within 30 days or the veteran resides more than 40 miles from any VA medical center (VAMC) or Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), the veteran can choose to receive care from the doctor or provider of their choice.

However, that doesn’t help veterans within the 40-mile radius, who would still have to go to a VAMC if their local CBOC doesn’t offer a service unless they receive pre-approval, which is bureaucratic and inconvenient. To solve this problem, Hoeven is a cosponsor of the Veterans Access to Community Care Act that would allow veterans to seek care in their local community if they live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility that can provide the care a veteran requires.

Hoeven is continuing his work as a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs to ensure that veterans have access convenient and quality health care and long-term care.