U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) joined Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller and colleagues as an original co-sponsor of the Veterans Access to Care Act, which passed the House June 10th in an effort to help veterans access timely healthcare.
Miller acts as the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 1st Congressional District and led H.R. 4810, which covers 6 sections, with the first explaining the short name of the bill.
Section two covers the provision of medical services for at non-Department of Veterans Affairs facilities for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) patients with extended waiting times for appointments at Department facilities.
Section three covers expanded access to hospital care and medical services, section four covers independent assessment of Veterans Health Administration performance, section five covers limitation on awards and bonuses to employees of Department of Veterans Affairs and section six covers Office of Management and budget [OMB] estimate of budgetary effects and needed transfer authority.
A main feature of the act is that it would require Veterans Affairs (VA) to offer non-VA care at the department’s expense to any enrolled veteran who cannot get an appointment within VA wait time goals or who lives more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility. In other words, the act is meant to cut down on obstacles for veterans to receive care.
“Our veterans deserve nothing less than immediate care," said Denham. “Secret wait lists will not be tolerated. Our veterans cannot and should not have to wait on any list. Importantly, this bill will allow Central Valley veterans to see local providers rather than traveling to the Palo Alto VA.”
In other words, H.R. 4810 makes it so that any care provided by a non-Department facility not under an existing VA contract would be reimbursed at the rate set by the VA, Tricare, or Medicare—whichever is greatest.
According to Denham’s office, the bill would even ban bonuses for all VA employees from fiscal years 2014 – 2016 and require VA to submit a quarterly report to Congress including usage info and an accounting as to what purchase methods were used to provide non-VA care.
It would also require an independent assessment of Veterans Health Administration performance, to include recommendations for improvement of VA’s current and projected health care capabilities and resources, providing a non-biased review of VA work. The VA would then be required to report to HVAC/SVAC on the Department’s response to the assessment’s findings and provide timelines for fully implementing the audit’s recommendations
The Office of Management and Budget would provide an estimate of the budgetary effects of the bill and any transfer authority needed to utilize savings realized by eliminating bonuses as well as a request for any additional budgetary resources, or transfers or reprogramming of existing budgetary resources necessary to pay for the bill.
The Veterans Access to Care Act would complement the VA Management Accountability Act, a bill Denham supported that passed the House overwhelmingly last month and would give the VA secretary the power to fire failing VA executives for performance.