Washington, DC – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) today introduced the ACT Now for Veterans bill (H.R. 5131) to direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to reimburse non-VA medical providers who provide care to eligible veterans. This legislation will ensure that veterans in Hawai‘i and across the U.S. who are lost in the VA bureaucracy, and who have been sitting on unacceptably long waiting lists, are able to get medical care immediately.
“Hawai‘i veterans need care today, and shouldn’t have to wait for Congress, or the VA bureaucracy, to make the systemic changes necessary for the VA to fulfill its mission once again,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a twice-deployed Army combat veteran. “Some Hawai‘i veterans have been waiting eight years to see a doctor. With 1,331 Hawai‘i veterans waiting to see a doctor, Hawai‘i’s Veterans Health Administration leadership only requested $250,000 from the VA to provide access to non-VA physicians for these wait-listed veterans. Other states have asked for and received more than $7 million to provide this access for their veterans to receive care from private physicians and deal with this crisis.
“Our bill will give veterans the flexibility they need to seek care from a doctor in their community immediately, with the assurance that the VA will cover the bill, as a temporary solution to this urgent crisis. Our veterans deserve far better than to have their service dishonored by the VA’s bureaucratic red-tape or even blatant negligence.”
“Our veterans have been failed by the system, and it is our responsibility to make things right,” said Congressman Adam Kinzinger. “Fixing the VA is no small task, and this bill will give veterans an opportunity to temporarily seek private care until we can make the necessary reforms. Frankly, keeping our promise of timely and quality care is the least we can do for the men and women who volunteered to defend our country.”
Read why Hawai‘i’s veterans need action now. Highlights of H.R. 5131 are below.
The following criteria must be met:
- a veteran must be currently eligible to receive care provided by the VA,
- a veteran will provide their VA identification card or other proof of enrollment in the VA patient enrollment system, and
- the VA has failed to schedule the veteran for an appointment with a doctor at a VA facility within 30 days.
- Veterans can choose a provider in their own community and seek medical care by showing their VA ID card or other proof of enrollment, and will not be required to wait for individual authorization from the VA.
- The access to reimbursed non-VA care would be effective immediately, and would not end until there is evidence that the VA is meeting its wait time goals.
- Does not require veterans to get VA pre-approval before seeking outside care, a bureaucratic obstacle in the comprehensive VA reform bill that is currently being negotiated in Congress.