Hoeven: Senate Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Address VA Health Care Challenges

Senator is Working to Ensure Veterans Can Access Services Closer to Home

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the U.S. Senate voted 93-3 to pass bipartisan legislation to reform the Veterans Affairs Administration (VA) and ensure that our veterans receive timely care. The bill will now go to conference with House-passed legislation.

“We need to do all we can to ensure our veterans have access to health care services that meet their needs,” said Hoeven. “This legislation will help to address problems at the VA that were recently brought to light and ensure that we’re providing our veterans with quality care in a timely manner. We still have to work with the House in conference to pass final legislation. That means there is still additional work to do to help ensure that veterans have access to care closer to home and on the underlying funding for the bill.”

The bill provides veterans with more access to health care. 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 Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), the veteran can choose to receive care from the doctor or provider of their choice.

Additionally, the compromise legislation includes provisions to improve accountability and transparency at the VA, including provisions to reform the way performance reviews are used and to make more information available to patients and the public.

Hoeven said he will continue working during the conference committee with the House to clarify language in the bill to ensure that veterans can access a nearby health care provider if their local CBOC or VAMC cannot provide the required service. The senator has been pressing the VA to allow veterans in western North Dakota to use local health care providers when the CBOC cannot provide a necessary service.

Since Fiscal Year 2009, funding for the VA has increased by 60 percent. At the same time, the VA has carried over a share of its budget in recent years, including $450 million it expects to carry over in Fiscal Year 2015. Further, Congress explicitly exempted the VA from sequestration, and the VA’s medical care accounts receive advanced appropriations to ensure predictability and proper planning.

The legislation is supported by a number of veteran service organizations, including the American Legion, Amvets, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans (IAVA), Concerned Veterans for America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Hoeven serves as a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.