The AMA, at its 2014 Annual Meeting, resoundingly adopted new policy that supports the provision of full health benefits to eligible veterans to ensure that they can access the medical care they need outside the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) medical centers and other facilities. This action was in response to recent disturbing reports of unconscionably long wait times and of the unacceptable, unworkable VA appointment scheduling system.
On June 10, 2014 the AMA sent a letter to President Obama urging immediate action to provide timely access to entitled care for eligible veterans utilizing the healthcare sector outside the VA until the VA can provide entitled care in a timely fashion.
On June 9, 2014, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) introduced H.R. 4810, "The Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014," which passed the House on June 10, 2014. On June 11, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced S. 2450, "The Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014," which passed the Senate as H.R. 3230 ("The Choice Act"). The bill was signed into law on August 7, 2014. This new law allows the Secretary of the VA to enter into contracts with non-VA facilities as necessary to furnish hospital care and medical services to veterans who have waited an inordinate amount of time for hospital or medical care in a VA facility. In addition, Veterans who live over forty miles from the nearest VA health clinic or who are unable to get an appointment in a reasonable amount of time are eligible to receive a "choice card" allowing them to seek treatment in a non-VA facility. The "Veterans Choice Program" (VCP) is a two-year pilot. The new law also expands the number of residency slots in VA facilities.
On March 26, 2015, Rep. Jeff Dunham (R-CA) introduced H.R. 1688 to amend "The Choice Act" to designate 20 graduate medical education residency positions specifically for the study of optometry. The AMA did not support this legislation since it would have diverted a number of medical residency positions to optometry in contradiction to the intent of Congress in enacting "The Choice Act." Furthermore, the VA OIG determined in his January 30, 2015 report "OIG Determination of Veterans Health Administration's Occupations Staffing Shortages," as required by "The Choice Act," that the number one need across VA facilities was Medical Officer (MD or DO).
The AMA has submitted a number of statements to both the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees regarding needed improvements to the VCP. The AMA continues to work with Congress and the VA to ensure the comprehensive delivery of, and timely access to, primary and specialty health care for our nation's veterans.
Supporting Veteran Health