In a recent article in the Legionaire magazine regarding Health Care, Tom wrote:
"I am a life member of the Legion, my concern is in the latest edition of the Legionnaire. Tom Mullon who headed a report on the Phoenix health care I feel spoke out of turn with his statements about privatization of health care. I live in a very rural area of Minnesota and our closet VA facility is 200 miles. I have never had to wait for health care at my local facility which is way above any treatment I have ever received at a VA facility. At my local hospital, I am a person not a number. If you would look at the Bigfork Valley Hospital in Big fork, Minn. you would find this is one of the top hospitals in the nation. We have been fighting to get rural health care for our older veterans because of the distances they have to travel to get the care they have earned and deserve. I have to admit I am angry as those statements that Mr. Mullon made pertaining to rural and private health care. Today Bernie Sanders and John McCain introduced legislation to make it easier for veterans to get private health. Look at the bill at the VFW legislative report. All I have to say Mr. Mullon get out the urban and get out in the rural Minnesota then you will see the hoops we jump through with the waiting for our appointments to get the care we need. It took 6 weeks to get an appointment in St. Cloud. My local hospital took me in 2 days. You folks seem to not understand what happens outside your little world. Please do not make statements if do not understand the truth. I really think if Mr. Mullon cared about veterans he would not make such uniformed statements. Please pass this along to Tom Mullon. If you really care about veterans you would come out with something better than those ridiculous statements. I’m very very upset because I believe our veterans deserve better.Tom Moors Vietnam Veteran, Post Commander Post 1764 VFW Bigfork, Minnesota"
For Immediate Release:
October 30, 2013
Sen. Franken Presses Veterans Committee to Increase Access to Health Care Services for Rural Veterans
Senator Testifies before Panel on His Bill to Make Quality Care More Available in Rural Communities
WASHINGTON, D.C. [10/30/13]—Today, U.S. Sen. Franken (D-Minn.) testified at the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and urged its members to act quickly to pass his bipartisan legislation to improve access to health care services for rural veterans in Minnesota and across the country. You can download video of Sen. Franken’s testimony here.
Sens. Franken and John Boozman (R-Ark.) reintroduced the Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act this summer, which would give the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Office of Rural Health the tools it needs to help veterans in rural communities get the care they need quickly and without traveling long distances. The bill was originally introduced in the 112th Congress. To read more about the legislation, click here.
"Veterans living in rural communities across Minnesota have told me they run into many roadblocks when it comes to getting quality health care services," said Sen. Franken. "I’m pushing the VA to improve access to health care for veterans living in rural communities. I hope we can come together to pass this bipartisan legislation and do right by those who have served our nation."
Over 40 percent of all veterans enrolled in the VA system live in rural areas, yet these areas have a shortage of medical providers and facilities. Often, rural veterans live hundreds of miles from the nearest VA Medical Center. VA has created smaller community-based outpatient clinics, but they are still often too far away or too small to fully meet veterans' needs. And a growing number of female veterans with distinctive health care needs face particular barriers in rural settings.
Sen. Franken’s Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act will help the VA better manage resources and ensure that the Office of Rural Health achieves its important mission. The bill requires the VA to include certain key features in its next strategic plan for the Office of Rural Health. The plan must include goals and objectives for:
• Recruiting and retaining Veterans Health Administration (VHA) healthcare personnel in rural areas.
• Ensuring timeliness and quality of care by VHA in rural areas through contract and fee-basis providers.
• The implementation, expansion, and enhanced use of telemedicine in rural areas.
• The full and effective use of VA’s mobile outpatient clinics.
• The modification of ORH funding allocation mechanisms so that the funds actually go to initiatives and projects that improve access to and quality of care for rural veterans.
In addition, the strategic plan must include procedures for soliciting from VA rural providers a statement of their clinical capacity, how they handle emergencies that exceed that capacity, including mental health emergencies, and how they provide and coordinate health care for women veterans.
You can watch Sen. Franken deliver his testimony before the committee here or read Sen. Franken’s full testimony below:
STATEMENT BEFORE THE SENATE VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE ON RURAL VETERANS HEALTH CARE IMPROVEMENT ACT
(As Prepared for Delivery)
Thank you, Chairman Sanders, Ranking Member Burr, and members of the Committee for the opportunity to speak very briefly on my bill, the Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act.
I’m very pleased once again to be working on this bill with Senator Boozman. I know he’s not able to be here, as he is serving on the Conference Committee on the Farm Bill. As I said the last time I testified, Senator Boozman’s unflappable demeanor and his commitment to veterans are equally renowned.
Our bill, the Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act, is on a subject that I know the Chairman cares deeply about – improving the access to quality health care for our nation’s veterans who live in rural areas. My state of Minnesota has a lot of veterans who live in rural areas, and that presents a challenge for getting quality care through the VA.
VA has been working on this, setting up the Office of Rural Health. But there is room for improvement, and that is what our bill would push VA to do. It would simply tell VA that when it next produces a strategic plan or updates its strategic plan for rural veterans health care, there are certain key features that strategic planning has to include. VA needs to plan strategically about recruiting and retaining practitioners for rural areas, for instance. It has to make full and effective use of mobile outpatient clinics. It has to make sure it is planning for the provision and coordination of care for women veterans in rural areas.
To talk at a little greater length about another aspect of our bill, the VA Inspector General has reported numerous times on the challenges veterans in rural areas face in getting emergency care. This is understandable – many rural clinics are not equipped to handle many types of emergencies, including mental health emergencies. But when we know emergencies will happen, and we know they go beyond the capacity of relatively small clinics, we need to be prepared. And that means that VA has to make sure that rural health care providers are identifying their clinical capacity and have a contingency plan for how to handle emergencies that exceed that capacity.
I know that VA wants to make this work and provide the best care possible for rural veterans. I believe the legislation Sen. Boozman and I have put forward will help VA do that. Rural veterans deserve excellent health care no less than anyone else.
Tom has received an email from Congressman Nolan that he wants to share. The following is a reprint of that email.
Dear Mr. Moors,
Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns about America's current and retired military personnel.
Please know I recently co-sponsor H.R.635, the HEALTHY Vets Act of 2013. Currently, the federal government requires veterans to drive to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals for many treatments. This is a major roadblock to health care for rural veterans in Minnesota, who may have to drive hours for medical attention. H.R.635 would allow veterans to use local health providers in their own home towns. This allows veterans the convenience and comfort they deserve, and provides for quicker, less stressful treatment.
Under the legislation, the VA Secretary will contract with local hospitals and doctors on a case-by-case basis to provide medical services, including primary care, for those veterans who live far away from VA medical facilities. Often, treatment could be accomplished using only a portion of travel money provided to veterans under the current approach.
In addition to co-sponsoring common-sense legislation such as the HEALTHY Vets Act of 2013, rest assured I will do everything in my power to maintain and expand veteran's benefits, and protect and honor the brave young men and women who sacrifice so much for our great nation. As your Congressman, I have repeatedly opposed cuts to these hard-earned benefits under what is known as the "chained CPI." Under a chained CPI, older veterans would be hurt twice, as both Social Security and veterans' benefits would be cut. Permanently disabled veterans who started receiving disability benefits from the Veterans Administration at age 30 would see their benefits cut substantially as well. This is unacceptable, and I will continue to vigorously oppose any efforts that attempt to do otherwise.
Thank you for taking the time to contact me. I appreciate your advice and counsel, and hope you will continue to stay in touch. Please let me know whenever I can be of assistance.
I encourage you to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and visit my website at nolan.house.gov to receive daily updates.
Richard M. Nolan
Member of Congress
This is a reprint of a recent VA News Release put out by the VA Public Affairs entitled "VA Announced Patient-Centered Care Contracts"
To view and download VA news release, please visit the following Internet address:
VA Announces Award of Patient-Centered Community Care Contracts Contracts Provide Expanded Access to Community-based Care
WASHINGTON (Sept. 19, 2013) – The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that Veterans will have greater access to quality health care through a new initiative: Patient-Centered Community Care (PCCC).
“PCCC is an innovative solution that helps VA medical centers continue to provide quality care efficiently,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “This will be a valuable option for VA medical centers to use to expand our Veterans’ access to care.”
Under PCCC, VA medical centers will have the ability to purchase non-VA medical care for Veterans through contracted medical providers when they cannot readily provide the needed care due to geographic inaccessibility or limited capacity. Eligible Veterans will have access to inpatient specialty care, outpatient specialty care, mental health care, limited emergency care, and limited newborn care for enrolled female Veterans following the birth of a child.
“PCCC provides a regional contracting vehicle for VA to work with local community providers to give Veterans access to high quality care,” said Dr. Robert Petzel, VA’s Under Secretary for Health. “It will also help VA in our continued efforts to ensure timely and accessible services are provided to Veterans for non-VA medical care.”
In total, VA has awarded two contracts under PCCC, one to Health Net Federal Services LLC and another to TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp. These companies will set up networks in six regions covering the entire country. VA expects to have these regional contract networks available to its medical centers by the spring of 2014. The awarded contracts, estimated at $9.4 billion, include one base year and four option years.
PCCC is part of the overall Non-VA Medical Care Program. It will provide all VA facilities with an additional option to purchase non-VA medical care when required Veteran care services are unavailable within the VA medical facility or when the Veterans benefit from receiving the needed care nearer to their homes.
Among the many benefits to the Veterans and VA under these new contracts, VA will enjoy standardized health care quality metrics, timely return of medical documentation, cost avoidance with fixed rates for services across the board, guaranteed access to care, and enhanced tracking and reporting of non-VA medical care expenditures over traditional non-VA medical care services.
For additional information, please visit: https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=3dde670a20dee9c5a6b38d8ca53642e1&tab=core&_cview=0
VFW 8th District