Tester: Replace Veterans Choice Program with Bipartisan Community Care Plan

Senator’s Bill Puts Health Care Decisions in the Hands of Veterans and Their Doctors

(U.S. Senate) – Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Jon Tester today led a Senate markup on his bipartisan bill to streamline the VA’s community care programs and bolster VA care for veterans.

Tester’s Caring for Our Veterans Act phases out the Choice Program while creating a single, easy-to-navigate VA community care system. It also allows the VA to invest in its medical staff and infrastructure to better serve veterans in rural areas like Montana.

“Our bill ends the Choice Program as we know it today and puts veterans at the center of their health care decisions,” said Tester. “Instead of forcing veterans into a one-size-fits-all system, this plan allows them to choose with their doctors the health care that works best for them. This bill was crafted through close collaboration and compromise with veterans and advocates, Republicans and Democrats. I look forward to thorough debate on this bill so veterans in Montana have a health care system that works for them.”

Tester’s Caring for Our Veterans Act modifies veterans’ access to care in their communities by:

  • Merging the seven VA community care programs into one program that puts the veteran and their doctor at the center of medical decisions.
  • Improving accountability and transparency of VA’s spending and third party administrators like Health Net.
  • Providing veterans with convenient access to walk-in clinics for non-urgent health care needs.

Tester’s bill will also bolster the VA’s capacity to care for veterans by:

  • Incentivizing medical staff to work at rural, underserved and tribal VA facilities, and deploying mobile teams to provide additional care.
  • Removing barriers for veterans to access telemedicine, including mental health care, closer to home.
  • Bringing more nurses and heart-and-lung specialists to work at the VA, and clinical staff to work at Vet Centers. 

The bill also extends the VA’s caregiver support program to veterans of all eras.

Members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee today met to offer amendments to Tester’s bill. During that meeting, the Committee voted to send the bill to the Floor for full Senate consideration.

The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Wounded Warrior Project have endorsed Tester’s Caring for Our Veterans Act.

A summary of Tester’s Caring for Our Veterans Act can be found online HERE.

More information about today’s Committee meeting can be found online HERE.