Legislation overwhelmingly passes committee, heads to full Senate for vote
U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today applauded the overwhelming committee passage of bipartisan legislation he introduced to streamline and strengthen veterans’ healthcare services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and in the community to ensure efficient, timely and quality care.
The Caring for Our Veterans Act of 2017 as amended was passed 14-1 by the committee. The legislation now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
“At the beginning of this year, we set out to find a way to permanently enhance veterans’ access to care in their communities while also improving existing VA services. By giving veterans the option of seeking care when and where it makes the most sense for their individual needs, we are creating a force multiplier for the VA to better utilize its resources and provide even better care to veterans,” said Isakson. “This bipartisan, strong, balanced legislation would not have been possible without the input, contribution and hard work of every member of our committee, the VA and our veterans service organization partners – all of whom want to see us do right by our veterans, regardless of political party.”
The Caring for Our Veterans Act of 2017 would establish a permanent, streamlined ‘Veterans Community Care Program’ to provide veterans with access to health care and services in their own communities. Under this legislation, a veteran and his or her doctor will decide where that veteran will receive care, taking into consideration the veteran’s healthcare needs and the availability and quality of both VA and community care.
In addition, the legislation will help improve existing VA health care and services by removing barriers for VA healthcare professionals to practice telemedicine, strengthening opioid prescription guidelines for VA and partnering community care providers, and eliminating impediments to hiring and retention of VA healthcare professionals.
The Caring for Our Veterans Act also expands eligibility for the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to veterans of all generations, including Vietnam-era veterans.
In addition to these provisions, the legislation will:
- Authorize access to walk-in community clinics for enrolled veterans who have previously used VA healthcare services in the last two years.
- Allow the VA to enter into agreements with community healthcare and extended care providers that easily meet veterans’ demands for care in the community.
- Create reporting requirements to ensure all VA and community care programs are operating efficiently and effectively based on a number of factors including veterans’ satisfaction and quality standards, among others.
- Create standards for timely payment to community care providers.
The legislation is supported by The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Wounded Warrior Project.