Fixing the Veterans Choice Program

Senator Jon Tester
Mar 8, 2017 · 3 min read

I’m taking a three-pronged approach to fixing the VA Choice Program, so veterans can access care more quickly in their communities. My plan includes passing legislation to cut red tape and expedite care, introducing a bill to hold VA contractors accountable, and convincing the VA to cut out the middle man so Montana veterans can schedule appointments faster.

1) Cutting Red Tape to Expedite Care

In March, I introduced the Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act, which makes the VA the primary payer under the Choice Program. This bill was unanimously passed by both the Senate and the House and signed into law by the President on April 19, 2017.

Once it becomes law, this legislation will improve the delivery of timely and quality care to our nation’s veterans by:

  • Reducing confusion and out-of-pocket expenses for veterans, while also helping them book appointments and get in to see their doctors faster.
  • Improving the sharing of medical records between the VA and community providers, which helps veterans receive more seamless and comprehensive care.
  • Easing billing complications and reimbursing community providers in a more timely manner, which will help keep local hospitals and clinics serving veterans.

2) Holding VA Contractors Accountable

I’ve also introduced the VA Performance Accountability and Contractor Transparency (PACT) Act, to increase oversight and accountability among VA contractors.

The PACT Act would make the details of VA contracts over $100 million public and require the companies being contracted to report their progress to Congress.

Under the PACT Act:

  • VA contracts must include a plan of action and milestones, along with measurable metrics tracking cost, schedule & services rendered.
  • Contractors must document their progress and provide performance updates to the VA, Congress, and certain oversight committees.
  • The Secretary of the VA has the authority to penalize contractors if their performance does not meet stated standards.

3) Streamlining the Appointments Process

At my repeated urging, VA Secretary David Shulkin has agreed to let VA Montana schedule Choice Program appointments directly. This change will help reduce wait times for Montana veterans who are currently forced to book their appointments through Health Net, a third-party provider that has left veterans waiting days, weeks, and even months for an appointment. I have repeatedly warned Health Net to turn things around or get the boot. Health Net hasn’t gotten better so I made good on this promise and now VA Montana will be helping veterans schedule appointments closer to home.

“The Choice Program was designed to serve Montana veterans by improving access to care, but the bureaucracy of the program is stalling access to care. Veterans deserve the very best health care, and this plan will make sure that veterans can access the timely, quality care they have earned.”

Senator Jon Tester

Written by

Senator Jon Tester is a third-generation Montana farmer, a proud grandfather and a former school teacher. He is the senior U.S. Senator from Montana.

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