U.S. Representative Rick Crawford (AR-1) praised Tuesday’s unanimous House passage of H.R. 4810, the Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014, serving as an original sponsor of the bill.
The legislation, which passed the House by a 421-0 vote, directs the VA secretary to seek hospital care and medical services at non-VA facilities for veterans having difficulty getting appointments at VA facilities.
Congressman Crawford said the bill helps alleviate the logjam of backlogged veterans’ appointments.
“Our Armed Forces veterans deserve the absolute best care we can provide them,” Crawford said. “It’s irrelevant whether that service comes at a Veterans Health facility or at a local clinic or hospital. It’s our job to make sure veterans receive timely medical attention reflective of the high level of service with which they protected their country.”
The Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014 will help veterans who face longer wait times at VA medical facilities than the June 1, 2014 goals set by the Veterans Health Administration. For two years after enactment, veterans will have covered healthcare at a non-VA facility if they receive notification that an appointment for hospital care or medical services is not available within those wait-time goals, or they reside more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility.
Crawford said getting veterans access to local healthcare as quickly as possible is the right thing to do.
“Many veterans seeking medical attention already face disabilities,” he said. “Requiring them to keep waiting or to travel long distances for services they could receive near their homes highlights an area within the bloated bureaucracy at the Veterans Administration that can be reformed with a common sense approach like this.”
The Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014 requires the VA to use existing contracts to the greatest extent as possible and ensure that non-VA care meets agency health standards while not exceeding 60 days of care. Congress mandates the VA must submit quarterly reports outlining the care provided under this authority. In addition, for two years after enactment, the VA must reimburse non-VA providers at the greater of the rate of reimbursement under the VA, Medicare, or TRICARE. Lastly, the legislation eliminates bonuses and performance awards for all VA employees for fiscal years 2014-2016.
Crawford said the VA still has many more needed reforms before it offers health services upon which veterans can rely, but he added that his new bill begins to address the agency’s nagging issues.
“The problems we’ve seen at VA health facilities didn’t start overnight, and we won’t be able to fix them that quickly either,” Crawford said. “However, with this legislation’s passage, Congress has recognized its need to act immediately. The Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014 provides a starting place where veterans will no longer have to worry whether they’re getting the best medical care on a timely basis. It’s our responsibility to continue enacting common sense reforms that improves the care promised to our veterans.”