Tester, Takano Take VA to Task over Proposed Access Standards

(U.S. Senate) – Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Senator Jon Tester and Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Congressman Mark Takano today led a group of 55 members of Congress to voice their concerns about the VA’s proposed VA MISSION Act access standards that could trigger a massive shift of care from VA facilities to the private sector.

In a letter to the VA, the Members share their disappointments that the VA’s proposed access standards don’t live up to the goal of the VA MISSION Act to get rid of the arbitrary one-size-fits-all approach to veterans’ access to community care.

The Members are urging the Department not to hollow out the VA’s capacity to serve veterans by bypassing VA care for nearly-automatic eligibility for community care. They also criticize the VA’s unacceptable lack of transparency in developing access standards that would hold community providers to lower standards than VA doctors. The Members note that the VA does not know how many veterans will be affected by the proposed access standards and is unable to provide accurate data about how much it will cost taxpayers.

“Given our concerns, we would urge the Agency to re-evaluate the number and type of access standards the Secretary is designating under the VA MISSION Act,” the Members wrote. “We also strongly recommend the VA review its estimates of the budgetary impact of these standards. Finally, we believe that the Department should remain the primary coordinator of care for all veterans, instead of setting up a system where it’s possible that a subset of veterans will never see a VA doctor.”

The Members also note the absence of information on how veterans will be educated on their new health care options.            

Additional signees include Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Representatives Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.), Raul Grijalva D-Ariz.), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), Gil Cisneros (D-Calif.), Denny Heck (D-Wash.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), David Trone (D-Md.), Susie Lee (D-Nev.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), Max Rose (D-N.Y.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Gregorio Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands), Michael San Nicolas (D-Guam), David Scott (D-Ga.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Terri Sewell (D-Ala.).

Their letter can be read in full HERE.