U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has introduced legislation (S.3006) directing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to utilize its authority to offer community care to veterans who currently are unable to receive the healthcare services they need from a VA medical facility within 40 miles of where they live.
“The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 was passed with the intention of providing veterans with the choice to access health care outside the VA when timeliness and distance put their well-being at risk,” Sen. Moran said. “Unfortunately, many rural Kansas veterans are still unable to access the care they need because common sense is not prevailing. It has become clear that the VA is implementing the Choice Act in a way that only takes into account distance to a VA medical facility, and not whether that facility can provide the medical services a veteran requires.”
“For example, while the services offered at Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) are invaluable, they cannot meet the health care needs of all veterans. Living near a CBOC should not prevent a veteran from accessing care which the CBOC cannot provide. The VA has the authority to fix this problem and have been calling on the VA Secretary to take action for several months,” Sen. Moran continued. “Enough is enough. In the absence of VA action, I have introduced legislation that would make certain rural veterans are not forgotten just because of where they live.”
In July, the House and Senate came together to pass the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), comprehensive legislation to respond to VA wait-time manipulation and failure to provide timely, quality health care to veterans. This legislation permitted veterans across the country to access non-VA community care if they live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility, including Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs), or their wait time for an appointment is more than 30 days. Even with this new law, many rural Kansas veterans are still unable to access the care they require because their nearest VA facility does not offer the medical services they need.
The introduction of S. 3006 comes on the heels of several months of efforts by Sen. Moran to work with the VA on this issue. On September 9, 2014, Sen. Moran questioned VA Secretary Bob McDonald during a Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee hearing on the VA’s interpretation of the 40 mile eligibility criteria of the Choice Act.
On November 14, 2014, Sen. Moran called on Sec. McDonald to meet in-person to discuss the VACAA and make certain the legislation is implemented and upheld the way it was intended and in the best interest of veterans. This includes offering non-VA care to veterans who are unable to receive the healthcare services they requite from a VA medical facility within 40 miles of where they live.
On December 11, 2014, Sen. Moran met with Deputy Secretary of the VA, Sloan Gibson, who reiterated the limitations of the Choice Act language and indicated the VA could not use its authorities under Title 38 to provide this access to non-VA care.