Following the results of the Department of Veterans Affairs audit on June 9, Congressman Denny Heck, D-Wash., introduced legislation to stimulate the creation and implementation of fixes to the veterans’ health care system.
The Our Vets Deserve Better Act will address the immediate need for changes, while the Commission for Our Veterans’ Care Act will offer proactive, long-term analysis and oversight to ensure that the VA Health Care System fits the needs of America’s veterans.
“We need to fulfill our end of the bargain to make the strides necessary for our veterans,” Heck said. “If we pass laws that allow stakeholders to dive in now, we can make progress through a reasonable yet accelerated schedule. The Our Vets Deserve Better Act, combined with the recently-passed Veteran Access to Care Act, will work to identify temporary fixes to the system as well as discover more long-term overhauls. The Commission for Our Veterans’ Care Act will make sure the VA listens to what our veterans have to say about the state of their health care system going forward.”
The Veteran Access to Care Act, H.R. 4810, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., passed the House on June 10 by a vote of 426-0.
The Our Vets Deserve Better Act requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to meet with existing VA health care advisory committees no later than 30 days following the law’s enactment. These committees will receive administrative and policy suggestions to improve the VA health care system and report their recommendations that require administrative action and congressional action to the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees. The report must be provided no later than 30 days after the advisory committees meet and must be available to the public on the VA website at the same time.
“We need to ensure Congress and the public remain involved in this evolution,” Heck said.
Under existing law, these committees only meet twice a year, limiting their role and timely impact on areas within their jurisdiction. Members of these committees include experts in the field, clinicians, and veteran service organizations. Committees currently advising the Veterans Affairs Health Care System are: Advisory Committee on Prosthetics and Special-Disabilities Programs, Genomic Medicine Program Advisory Committee, Geriatrics and Gerontology Advisory Committee, Health Services Research and Development Service Scientific Merit Review Board, Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, Special Medical Advisory Group, Veterans’ Advisory Committee on Rehabilitation, and Veterans’ Rural Health Advisory Committee.
The Commission for Our Veterans’ Care Act would require the President to create a Commission of experts to look at VA health care access issues and recommend actions to bolster capacity. The Presidential Commission on Access to VA Health Care would provide a report to the President within 90 days of the Commission’s first meeting.