Sen. Moran on Sec. McDonald: Focus Should be on Veterans Struggles, Flawed Implementation of Choice Act
“While I share frustration and disappointment with the VA Secretary's comments, I believe we should be redoubling our efforts to shed light on the most important issue at hand: veterans are still struggling to access the care they deserve from the VA."
Feb 24 2015
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Committee on Appropriations, today directed attention to the thousands of veterans who continue to be overlooked by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in their flawed implementation of The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act). Sen. Moran’s remarks came on the heels of a media firestorm over VA Secretary Bob McDonald’s false claim that he served in special operations forces:
“While I share frustration and disappointment with the VA Secretary’s comments, I believe we should be redoubling our efforts to shed light on the most important issue at hand: veterans are still struggling to access the care they deserve from the VA,” Sen. Moran said. “Why is the VA not bending over backwards to take care of veterans?”
“Thousands of veterans are struggling to access care through the Choice Act primarily because of VA’s flawed implementation and interpretation of the law,” Sen. Moran continued. “The United States Senate must make certain the VA implements the Choice Act in a way that benefits those who the legislation was intended to serve — our nation’s heroes. I will question Sec. McDonald in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Thursday about why the VA insists on implementing the Choice Act in a way that restricts veterans access to care by only taking into account a veteran’s distance to a VA medical facility, and not whether that facility can actually provide the medical services a veteran requires.”
Sen. Moran introduced legislation, the Veterans Access to Community Care Act of 2015 (S. 207), requiring the VA to utilize its authorities, including the Choice Act, to offer community care to veterans who are currently unable to receive the healthcare services they need from a VA medical facility within 40 miles of where they live. By choosing to not use their authorities, the VA is forcing many rural veterans to travel hours to access care they could receive through the Choice Act in their communities – or go without care altogether.
This legislation is supported and endorsed by the National Rural Health Association, the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas, Inc., the National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors, the National Association of Rural Mental Health, the National Council for Behavioral Health, the Eastern Maine Medical Center, and the National Guard Association of the United States.
The introduction of S. 207 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.
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