Hoeven: Veterans in North Dakota, Western Minnesota to Have Access to Local Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Facility

Senator Worked to Expand Alternative Treatment for Veterans with PTSD, Continues Efforts to Address Scheduling Delays & Improve Health Care, LTC Access

FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has added the Fargo VA Health Care System to its hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) clinical demonstration program, giving access to this alternative treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to veterans in North Dakota and western Minnesota who have yet to experience positive outcomes. The local VA is partnering with Healing with Hyperbarics, a Fargo-based facility, and is the fifth location to be added to the HBOT program, joining VA systems in California, Florida, Oklahoma and Texas. Hoeven, a member of the Senate Military Construction and Veteran Affairs Appropriations Committee, has worked with the administration since last year to advance the inclusion of the Fargo VA in the demonstration program.

Hoeven made the announcement as part of a roundtable he held today, where he brought together officials from the Fargo VA Health Care System, TriWest, veteran service organizations and local veterans and outlined his ongoing initiatives to: 

  • Improve veterans’ ability to access health care closer to their homes.
  • Enable more long-term care (LTC) providers to accept veteran patients.
  • Ensure community care appointments are scheduled promptly.

“North Dakota is now one of five places in the U.S. where veterans who haven’t benefitted from traditional therapies for PTSD can access HBOT as an alternative treatment option,” said Hoeven. “This comes as part of our continued push to improve mental health care and suicide prevention services for our veterans and builds on the progress we’ve made in expanding access to local health care and long-term care providers. Our efforts to advance these priorities continue, and I appreciate the Fargo VA team and representatives from TriWest for joining today’s meeting and working with us to help ensure veterans can schedule their community care appointments in a timely manner. Our veterans deserve convenient, quality health care, and part of that means reducing their wait times as soon as possible.” 

Improving Access to Local Health Care Services

Last year, Hoeven helped pass legislation to better enable veterans to access health care in their home communities. This legislation reformed the Veterans Choice Program (VCP), which is now known as the Veterans Community Care program, allowing veterans to get the care they need without traveling long distances or taking additional time off from work. Specifically, Hoeven worked to ensure the bill:

  • Expanded caregiver benefits for veterans of all eras.
  • Removed the arbitrary 30-day/40-mile rule, which acted as a barrier to veterans receiving care in their home communities.
  • Included the senator’s legislation allowing the VA to enter into Veterans Care Agreements (VCAs) with qualified long-term care facilities.

Enabling More LTC Providers to Serve Veterans

Following the legislation’s passage, Hoeven has worked to ensure the VCAs enable more LTC providers to accept veteran patients. Currently, only about 20 percent of North Dakota’s nursing homes contract with the VA, which is due to burdensome contracting and reporting requirements.

Accordingly, the senator is pressing the administration and the VA to give qualified LTC providers only one set of regulations, matching the standards under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). By removing the existing redundant layers of review, more long-term care providers would be able to serve veterans.

Resolving Scheduling Delays for Community Care

Hoeven is also working with the Fargo VA and TriWest to ensure veterans’ appointments with local providers under the Veterans Community Care program are scheduled promptly. The senator began this effort after hearing from veterans and health care providers that appointments were being delayed due to complications during the program’s rollout and the transition from Health Net to TriWest as the third party administrator.

In 2016, Hoeven worked to address a similar issue under the VCP and Health Net, having implemented the Veterans Care Coordination initiative at the Fargo VA, which helped to significantly reduce wait times for North Dakota veterans. Due to its success, the initiative was expanded to multiple sites around the country. 

In preparation for the transition, Hoeven secured a commitment from TriWest to maintain the Fargo VA initiative, and he continues working with the two organizations to resolve the appointment backlog and reduce wait times as soon as possible.