Sens. Burr, Ayotte, Daines, Hoeven, and Tillis Introduce Veterans Choice Improvement Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Hoeven (R-ND), Thom Tillis (R-NC), John Boozman (R-AR) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the Veterans Choice Improvement Act of 2016. This legislation makes the Veterans Choice Program, which was created in 2014 to allow veterans to get needed health care outside of the VA system, a permanent program with advance funding.  It will also make needed changes and reforms to address the bureaucratic delays, hassles and confusion that veterans have continued to experience in attempting to get health care.

"Veterans deserve the best health care that America has to offer, but as we learned in 2014 from the waitlist scandals, VA is failing to deliver it," Senator Burr said. "The creation of the Veterans Choice program nearly two years ago was a good start, but there is much more we need to do if we are going to fulfill our promises to our veterans. I’ve heard from many veterans in North Carolina who tell me that they are still experiencing significant frustrations and delay in getting health care. My legislation cuts down on the bureaucratic delays, hassles and confusion that is standing in between veterans and the health care they need. Congress must take action on this legislation so that every American veteran will finally be able to rely on quality care without having to wait or drive far."

“The Veterans Choice Program is critical to providing New Hampshire's veterans with choices regarding where they receive the health care they have earned,” said Senator Ayotte. “As part of our ongoing efforts to address shortcomings with the VA’s implementation of the program, the Veterans Choice Improvement Act of 2016 would make important reforms and ensure that the program is permanently extended,” said Senator Ayotte. “I urge my colleagues to support this legislation and I will continue my efforts to protect New Hampshire veterans’ health care choices.”

“Problems with the Choice Act is the number one concern I hear from veterans in Montana. We need to ensure that the men and women who risked their lives for our country have every option available to receive the best care and treatment,” Daines stated. “Our country has a duty to uphold the promises it made to our veterans and this bill takes bold steps toward improving the entire Choice Act Program to ensure that happens."

“Our veterans should not have to wait months or years to get the quality health care services they need, nor should they have to drive for hours to get routine care,” Senator Hoeven said. “Two years ago, we worked very hard to pass the Veterans Choice Program to address these issues, but clearly that legislation needs to be improved. The bill we’re introducing today will strengthen the Choice Act by cutting red tape and confusion and giving local private medical providers in North Dakota and across the nation the confidence they need to enter into service agreements with the VA. It will allow our vets, who didn’t delay defending our nation, to get the high quality care they need within their own communities and without delay.”

“We cannot let the failure of the VA bureaucracy prevent our veterans from receiving the health care they need and deserve,” said Senator Tillis. “By reducing wasteful redundancies within the VA and modernizing the outdated claims submission process, the Veterans Choice Improvement Act will help veterans in North Carolina and across the nation receive higher quality and more timely health care.”

The Veteran’s Choice Improvement Act addresses three key problems that have come to light since the creation of the Veterans Choice Program in 2014:

  1. Systemic confusion with accessing health care outside the VA:  The VA has the legal authority to send veterans outside of the VA to receive care, but there are multiple programs, contracts and laws that confuse everyone involved.  The Veterans Choice Improvement Act simplifies the process by consolidating redundant and overlapping programs into the Veterans Choice Program and creating one funding source for all non-VA care programs.  This will streamline and simplify the process for veterans who need to go outside of the VA to receive care.
  1. Medical providers fear working with the VA, which is jeopardizing the ability of veterans to get the care they need:  VA has an antiquated, slow, and inefficient claims processing system that often makes it very difficult for private medical providers to work with the VA.  The Veterans Choice Improvement Act requires that the VA will create a modern, secure and efficient claims submission process with industry best practices.  It gives strict timelines for reimbursement to providers and includes measures to make sure that the VA meets those timelines.
  1. The VA does not use local medical providers to help veterans, which means veterans have to drive for hours to receive care, even for simple things like getting eyeglasses.  The Veterans Choice Improvement Act allows the VA to enter into provider agreements with local providers, which will help thousands of veterans who live in areas with health care shortages to receive the care they need much more easily and conveniently.

A summary of the legislation is available here.

The text of the legislation is available here.