WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Illinois) is supporting passage of the Conference Report for the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (HR 3230).
The House passed this compromise 420-5, and the Senate is expected to pass the conference report Thursday, July 31.
“I recently visited the Danville and Marion VA Medical Centers and spoke to administrators and other employees, as well as veterans,” Shimkus said in a press release Thursday. “I believe the employees’ desire to serve our nation’s veterans is present, but the bureaucracy of government is definitely in the way.
“This legislation will improve access to health care and increase the level of care given to our veterans.”
The legislation requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to offer non-VA care to any veteran enrolled after Aug. 1, 2014, or newly discharged combat veterans if they are unable to secure an appointment at a VA medical center within 30 days or if that veteran resides more than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility, including outpatient clinics. Those veterans will be issued Veterans Choice Cards to receive care outside the VA system.
“Holding the VA accountable is also a key step in preventing future failures and ensuring our veterans get the care they deserve,” Shimkus said. “This legislation will allow the Secretary of the VA to fire or demote senior officials who fail in their duties.”
In order to provide more timely health care to veterans, the legislation provides funds to hire physicians and medical staff. Additional funds to lease space in 27 specific locations is provided with the nearest facility being a new outpatient clinic in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
“Another important part of this legislation is the call for an outside assessment of the services, standards, staffing, and practices of the VA,” Shimkus said. “A Congressional Commission on Care will be established to review and give recommendations to Congress on the VA’s access to care.
“During my visits to VA facilities, I also heard about the outdated scheduling system used by VA. This legislation also requires an immediate review of that system through a technology task force.”
Other provisions of the legislation include:
- Information on physician credentials will be available to veterans.
- Opens VA services to active-duty service members affected by sexual trauma
- Extends the pilot program for veterans with traumatic brain injury.
“I continue to ask veterans who have had issues with the VA to contact my office in Maryville at (618) 288-7190 in order to either report problems or to allow us to help you resolve a current dispute,” Shimkus said.