WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is urging the Senate to pass the Caring for Our Veterans Act of 2017, bipartisan legislation he introduced to streamline and strengthen veterans’ community care services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Earlier today, VA Secretary David Shulkin notified Congress that funding for veterans’ community care, called the Veterans Choice Fund, will be expended within the next month if Congress does not act. Isakson’s legislation would provide critical funding to ensure veterans continue to have seamless access to care outside of the VA.
“It is critical that we pass this bipartisan legislation before the end of the year to ensure veterans continue to have access to efficient, timely and quality health care,” said Isakson. “The Caring for Our Veterans Act makes much-needed improvements to the community care programs offered by the VA and helps ensure that our veterans continue to get the very best care when and where it makes the most sense for them. I urge the Senate to quickly pass this bipartisan legislation without delay.”
The Caring for Our Veterans Act was passed by the committee in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 14-1 on Nov. 29. It currently awaits full Senate action.
The Caring for Our Veterans Act would establish a permanent, streamlined ‘Veterans Community Care Program’ to provide veterans with access to health care and services in their own communities. Under this legislation, a veteran and his or her doctor will decide where that veteran will receive care, taking into consideration the veteran’s healthcare needs and the availability and quality of both VA and community care.
In addition, the legislation will help improve existing VA health care and services by removing barriers for VA healthcare professionals to practice telemedicine, strengthening opioid prescription guidelines for VA and partnering community care providers, and eliminating impediments to hiring and retention of VA healthcare professionals.
The Caring for Our Veterans Act also expands eligibility for the VA's Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to veterans of all generations, including Vietnam-era veterans.
The bipartisan legislation has received broad support from leading veterans groups that represent millions of veterans in the United States. Last week, a group of 26 veteran and military advocacy organizations wrote to Senate leadership calling for a vote on the Caring for Our Veterans Act. Read a copy of the letter here.
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the armed services as well as more than 750,000 veterans.