Tester Introduces Bill to Hold VA Accountable for Timely Community Care
Legislation Will Prevent Future Backlog of Community Care
(U.S. Senate) - Ranking Member Jon Tester today introduced a bill to hold the VA accountable for the amount of time it takes to refer veterans to a community health care provider.
With his Accountability in VA Scheduling and Consult Management Act, Tester is doubling down in his efforts to streamline the process for a veteran to see a community provider when that veteran is unable to get care directly from the VA in a timely manner.
"In rural states like Montana, community care fills in the gaps when a VA clinic is too far or a clinic doesn't offer the right service," said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "When a veteran is sent into a community for care, we have to make sure their timely access to care isn't jeopardized by red tape and a backlog of referrals. My bill ensures that this process is more efficient and makes more sense for veterans."
In recent years, VA staff in Montana and elsewhere have struggled with processing both internal and community care referrals, resulting in delayed health care. In response to the growing backlog of Montana veterans waiting for health care, Tester introduced legislation to allow facilities to request a mobile deployment team to help them get back on track. These provisions were signed into law as a part of Tester's VA MISSION Act.
Now, Tester has included a provision in his Accountability in VA Scheduling and Consult Management Act to track how often local facilities are requesting a team and how the VA is deploying them. His bill will also require the VA to clarify its referral processes and improve training so VA staff are better equipped to direct veterans to the best health care option.
Tester's bill will improve the VA's ability to hire staff and process referrals. It will also strengthen oversight of the VA's scheduling of medical appointments by requiring the Department to develop a real-time tracking tool to monitor scheduling at medical facilities and conduct regular audits of scheduling nationwide.
Cosponsors of Tester's bill include Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
Text of Tester's Accountability in VA Scheduling and Consult Management Act can be found online HERE.