Hoeven's Long-Term Care Legislation Gaining Momentum, Veterans Affairs Secretary Urges Senate Support

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Veterans Affairs, VA Secretary Robert McDonald urged the Senate to support Senator John Hoeven’s Veterans Access to Extended Care Act, a measure that will help veterans access nursing homes and extended care facilities in their communities near loved ones and friends. The senator is working to get a vote on the bill soon. The senator outlined his legislation at a gathering of the North Dakota Disabled American Veterans Convention Saturday in Fargo.

“We’re very much in favor of it, but we would like to talk to everyone who’s going to vote and make sure they vote in favor of it because we think that’s the way to go,” McDonald said. “We have got to focus on veteran outcomes, veteran customer experiences, and there’s so much red tape getting in the way of it.”

“Secretary McDonald’s support of our legislation gives us real momentum going forward,” Hoeven said. “Our legislation cuts through the red tape and makes it easier for long-term care facilities to receive reimbursement from the VA so they can serve our veterans. His support will help us to keep our nation’s promise to care for the men and women who have served our country.”

Hoeven introduced the bipartisan Veterans Access to Extended Care Act last month. Specifically, the legislation would clear the way for veterans to stay in nursing homes and other extended care facilities in their home communities because those nursing homes will be able to receive Veterans Administration reimbursement without burdensome red tape.

Currently, the VA is authorized to enter into contracts with extended care providers enabling them to provide services to veterans, but onerous federal regulations, compliance and 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.

By contrast, the same LTC facilities contracting with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have no such additional requirements. They need only comply with federal hiring practices. In February 2013, the VA issued a proposed rule that would have allowed the same VA reporting requirements for providers as they are for CMS, but the rule was never implemented because the VA determined it needs legislative authority. Hoeven’s Veterans Access to Extended Care Act provides the statuary authority they need.

Hoeven has spoken with McDonald on a number of occasions to garner his support for the measure. Additionally, the American Health Care Association (AHCA), the nation’s largest association of long-term and post-acute care providers, strongly endorses the bill. The North Dakota Long Term Care Association is an affiliate of the AHCA. 

“The North Dakota Long Term Care Association and its provider members applaud Senator Hoeven for his leadership in introducing the Veterans Access to Extended Care Act. This important legislation ensures that America’s heroes have wider access to the quality health care they deserve with our long term care providers in North Dakota and across the country through VA provider agreements. Through this important legislation, men and women, who selflessly served our country will have access to extended care services from providers who are closer to their homes and community support structures,” said Shelly Peterson, President of the North Dakota Long Term Care Association.