The following information is regarding proposed changes to your VA Healthcare System. Please read and contact your Congressman and/or Senator to voice your opinion.
Summary of Senator McCain’s Bill:
Care Veterans Deserve Action Plan
Many thousands of veterans from around the country continue to experience issues with the VA despite the implementation of the Veteran Choice Card program.
Their complaints and suggestions for reform which are now part of the Care Veterans Deserve Action Plan. These fixes are simple and common sense. In fact, civilians who have never served in the military have these options – it is past time for our disabled veterans to have the same health care access.
Problem #1 – Wait Times for VA Hospital and Clinic Appointments
• Wait times for appointments at the VA hospitals are still far too long.
• Wait times have gotten worse, not better over the last year with more than 10% of veterans having to wait more than 30 days for care at the VA.
• Veterans cannot make appointments past 3pm during the week and have no appointment options on the weekend. VA employees abruptly close clinics no matter what a veteran needs at the end of the day.
• Keep the VA open later during the week and on weekends with local doctors and nurses who want to help our veterans.
• Nearly all hospitals and doctors use “moonlighters” who are fully-qualified professionals who work additional shifts either part-time or full-time.
Problem #2 – Wait Times at the Emergency Room
• Veterans who cannot get appointments for urgent but minor injuries and illnesses end up at the emergency room which extend the wait for everyone else there as well.
• The VA will contract with walk-in clinics to provide walk-in clinic access for eligible veterans paid for by the VA for minor injuries and illnesses such as cold, flu, allergies, sinus infections, immunizations, vaccines, sore throat or minor headaches.
• This will greatly reduce the need for these veterans to visit the emergency room after hours and will shorten the wait times for everyone.
Problem #3 – Long Lines at the VA Pharmacy and Limited Hours
• There are no pharmacy options for veterans who may need their medications in the evenings or on weekends.
• Working veterans often cannot wait hours at the pharmacy after their appointments as they have to return to their job.
• Require VA Pharmacies to keep similar hours as retail pharmacies available to civilians – until 8pm during the week and to be open for at least eight hours on Saturday and Sunday.
• Veterans who do not need their prescriptions immediately can return to the VA at a time that is more convenient for them. This will lessen the wait time for those who do need their prescriptions following an appointment.
Problem #4 – Mental Health Care and Suicide Prevention
at the VA Needs Improvement
• Ensure a full spectrum of mental health care is available for the veteran when he or she needs it from emergency to long-term care.
• Change the culture at the VA such that it partners with, rather than avoids, local medical specialists and veterans groups on suicide prevention.
• Ensure that the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which Senator McCain originally sponsored, is fully and effectively implemented. The Clay Hunt Act directs the VA to use proven methods to prevent veteran suicides.
• Provide professional mental health services to veterans outside of the traditional VA hospital setting and in coordination with peer-support groups of fellow veterans.
• One of the ways we know that veteran suicides are prevented is when veterans can talk to fellow veterans.
Problem #5 – Unnecessary hurdles to use the Veteran Choice Card
prevent veterans from accessing their health care
• While some of the senior leaders at the VA are aggressively implementing the Choice Program, many others in the VA hold the view that veterans should be forced to stay within the walls of the VA no matter what. Making the program permanent will send a clear message to veterans and bureaucrats alike that we are NOT going back to the old ways of delaying and denying care to our nation’s veterans.
• Make the Veteran Choice Card Program permanent. Right now, the VA Choice Card program expires next year. We cannot and will not go back to the way our VA ran before the scandal.
• The Permanent and Universal Choice Card Act will remove the 30-day/40-mile arbitrary limits on accessing the VA Choice Card. Those two restrictions have caused so many unnecessary complications for our nation’s heroes and their families and this must end. Retirees on Medicare and most Americans with employer insurance don’t have to worry about miles or days – why should our veterans?
• Finally, the Permanent and Universal Choice Card Act will allow eligible veterans to go to in-network VA Choice Card medical providers without pre-authorization from the VA just like an American with normal insurance is able to do.
By enacting this legislation as soon as possible, we can fix the ridiculous inequality represented on this slide. It is unacceptable that all sorts of Americans, even VA employees, get federal subsidies for choice and freedom when it comes to health care that are denied to our veterans. Disabled veterans are forced to go wait in a line and ask permission for a VA bureaucrat before getting to access their health care.
Problem #6 – VA does not keep up with “best practices” for
Health care available to the public
The VA is a “closed system” meaning it operates separate and independent from the rest of America’s health care system. In many areas, the VA is the last to adopt groundbreaking technology or new medical techniques.
• Requiring VA hospitals to undergo peer review from the best in health care: Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and others.
• Ensuring that VA hospitals are able to remove doctors, nurses, or administrative staff that put veterans’ health at risk.
Article about the commission appointed to review the VA and present a report of findings:
VA Press Release:
USA TODAY article:
In USA Today:
Sen. John McCain proposed legislation Wednesday to expand and make permanent the choice program for veterans so they could go anywhere for health care.
McCain’s bill, borne of frustration over the slow pace of improvement in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ system, would remove the current restriction that veterans can go outside the VA system if they wait more than 30 days or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility.
His bill also would:
• Allow veterans to go to walk-in clinics for minor illnesses. The VA would be required to contract with a national chain of clinics to provide the service.
• Expand operating hours of VA clinics and pharmacies.
• Expand telemedicine to allow VA health care providers in one state to treat veterans in other states.
Veterans Affairs Media Summary and News Clips 28 April 2016
The bill would encourage VA facilities to undergo a best practices peer review by some of the leading hospital networks in the country.
“This effort that we have been making, I believe, has shown some progress but the fact remains that we have a long way to go,” McCain said.
McCain said he would give VA Secretary Bob McDonald a C- grade overall, but an F for not holding people in the agency accountable in various scandals. Among those was the manipulation of scheduling records — discovered in Phoenix — that was used to hide the long waits veterans faced before getting appointments.
McCain also said no one has been held accountable for massive cost overruns in the construction of a new VA hospital in Denver.
The VA did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on McCain’s proposal.
Co-sponsors of McCain’s Care Veterans Deserve Act include seven other Republican senators.
McCain provided no cost estimate for the bill. He and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., negotiated the previous VA health care overhaul legislation in the summer of 2014. McCain noted the Office of Management and Budget estimated that legislation would cost $3.3 billion but has only cost $400 million.
McCain said he has had several meetings with Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He said he expects to attract some Democratic support and hopes to pass the bill before the end of the legislative session.
McCain said his office is still handling about 500 cases involving complaints by veterans.
“The day that (total) decreases I think will be the day that we have shown some progress in caring for our veterans,” McCain said.