Senate Passes Tester’s Bipartisan Fix to VA Choice Program

Senator Secures Assurance that VA Montana will Directly Schedule Choice Appointments

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester today got the U.S. Senate to put politics aside and unanimously pass his bipartisan legislation to fix the VA Choice Program.

After hearing from Montana veterans, Tester worked with Republican Senators Johnny Isakson and John McCain to craft the Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act to address some of the obstacles that veterans face when accessing health care.

“This bipartisan legislation cuts some of the red tape that slows down veterans’ access to care in their communities,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Veterans have consistently told me about parts of the Choice Program that just aren’t working for them, and I’m proud that Republicans and Democrats in Congress worked together to provide these solutions for veterans in Montana and across the country. I urge the House to quickly pass this legislation.”

Tester’s Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act does the following:

  • Cuts red tape so that veterans can access care more quickly.
  • Reimburses community providers more quickly for the care they provide to veterans.
  • Reduces out-of-pocket costs for veterans receiving care through Choice.
  • Improves the sharing of medical records between the VA and community providers to better ensure seamless care.
  • Allows the VA to access all of the funding initially appropriated for the Program to ensure that veterans’ access to care isn’t disrupted.

Tester today also announced that at his request, Secretary David Shulkin is allowing VA Montana to schedule Choice Program appointments directly, instead of relying on the government contractor Health Net. Tester’s request came after hundreds of Montana veterans raised concerns about Health Net delaying appointments, scheduling appointments at the wrong clinics, and leaving veterans on hold for lengthy periods.

“I told Health Net if they couldn’t turn things around I would give them the boot,” said Tester. “This change in scheduling holds the government contractor accountable and turns the Choice Program around so veterans can schedule appointments more quickly.”

Tester is also sponsoring The PACT Act to make Health Net’s contract with the VA publicly available so Congress can better hold them accountable to taxpayers and veterans.

The Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act will now go the House of Representatives for consideration. Following passage in the House, it would go the President’s desk.