Thomas Gallatin / November 10, 2017

Choice for Veterans

Legislation would cut red tape and allow for more freedom for veterans seeking health care via the VA.

Ever so slowly, Veterans Affairs malpractice is being addressed, with current VA Secretary David Shulkin having committed to establishing greater transparency within the agency. This past June the agency voluntarily released its ratings for all of its 146 medical centers, which unfortunately showed little improvement over last year’s ratings. It’s clear that it will take more than a commitment to transparency to correct the problems plaguing the VA.

On that note, the House Veterans Affairs Committee will soon vote on a measure that would overhaul and make permanent the Veterans Choice Program, the temporary program Congress created in response to the 2014 VA scandal. Committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), who introduced the bill, stated, “I’ve said this from day one: The way to make the VA better is to make the VA compete and put veterans in charge of health care decisions. Just like we do in the private sector, if I don’t like my particular primary care doctor I can change. Veterans can do the same thing. That’s what I was really shooting for — to put some power in the veterans hands so the veteran and doctor can be making those decisions, not the VA bureaucrats, and that’s exactly what I think we’ve got with this bill.”

The bill, which enjoys strong bipartisan support, would effectively cut government red-tape giving veterans greater flexibility to pursue care outside the VA’s network of health care facilities. The bill would also establish a permanent network of private sector providers within each of the VA’s regions for veterans to seek care that the VA couldn’t offer. Essentially, the bill aims at empowering and freeing veterans to seek the best care available for their needs.

The American Legion positively responded to Roe’s bill, stating that it “will allow the department to provide greater access and develop stronger relationships with non-VA providers, ultimately moving toward a more integrated system with the veteran at the core.” However, the conservative non-profit Concerned Veterans for America does not believe that the bill goes far enough, stating that it had “some positive reforms” but “falls short of delivering real health care choice to our veterans.” Still, this bill is a step in the right direction, which Congress should be able to get behind in positively working toward correcting the VA’s dismal record. Come on — it’s Veterans Day weekend.

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