(Washington, DC)- U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) released the following statements tonight after the Senate passed bipartisan legislation reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA):
“The bipartisan legislation we passed today will finally address the health care inequities that have plagued New Hampshire veterans for too long,” said Senator Shaheen. “Our veterans deserve convenient access to quality health care in their communities and for years I’ve worked in a bipartisan fashion to make that goal a reality. I’m proud to have helped pass this legislation that expands access to health care for New Hampshire veterans and also implements important reforms across the VA so that the Department can better serve those who have sacrificed so much for our country.”
“Passage of this bill is great news for New Hampshire veterans. No veteran in our state should have to travel hours to receive care, and this bill will give veterans greater choice and convenience when it comes to where they see their doctors,” said Senator Ayotte. “Since my first day in the Senate, I’ve worked to expand access to care for New Hampshire’s veterans, and I’m so pleased to have helped pass this breakthrough legislation.”
The bill would allow veterans to receive care from a non-VA provider if a veteran lives more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility or if the VA cannot provide the requested appointment within VA wait-time goals. An additional provision Shaheen and Ayotte worked to include would give veterans the option of seeking care from a non-VA provider if they reside in a state without a full-service medical facility, like New Hampshire, and live more than 20 miles from the nearest full-service VA hospital.
KEY PROVISIONS OF VA REFORM BILL:
· Access to Non-VA Care:
· Includes a provision – effective for three years from the date of enactment or until appropriations are exhausted -- requiring the VA to pay for outside medical care for veterans who are unable to get prompt treatment from the agency or who live at least 40 miles from a VA facility.
· Allows veterans in states without a full-service VA hospital, like New Hampshire, to seek care from a private provider if they live more than 20 miles from the nearest full-service VA hospital. This provision allows the vast majority of New Hampshire veterans to utilize non-VA health care providers should they choose to do so, potentially avoiding long drives and wait times for appointments.
· Eligibility criteria: the above provisions apply to veterans currently enrolled in the VA health care system or those who have served on active duty in a combat zone within five years of their enrollment in the VA.
· Firing VA Employees – Makes it easier for the VA secretary to fire or demote agency officials based on performance.
· Accountability Measures – Requires the VA to establish goals for appointment wait times and publish wait times at each VA medical facility.