Stefanik, Walorski, Zeldin testify before subcommittee about bills to improve healthcare for veterans

U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Jackie Walorski (R-IN) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) testified before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health last week about their bills to improve veteran healthcare.

The Support Our Military Caregivers Act, H.R. 3989, introduced by Stefanik, would reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Family Caregiver Program. The program provides medical and financial support to caregivers of seriously wounded military veterans.

The Government Accountability Office estimated that 4,000 people would enroll in the Family Caregiver Program, while the actual number of enrollees has exceeded 15,000. As a result, Stefanik testified, VA facilities lack caregiver support coordinators and clinical staff to conduct medical assessments to determine program eligibility, which leads to delays in the application and appeals processes.

“This bill would use pre-existing funds already appropriated for the current review and appeals process to then allow for an objective, independent party to conduct external, clinical reviews,” Stefanik said. “This bill would ensure that new or modified processes are veteran-centric, outcomes-based and continually improved through the use of best practices. We can accomplish this by permitting a third party to work within the VA to streamline claims and reduce the caregiver backlog through a more clinical analysis rather than benefits adjudication.”

Walorski, meanwhile, testified before the subcommittee about legislation she recently introduced to enhance accountability in the VA’s scheduling process. The VA Scheduling Accountability Act, H.R. 4977, would require VA facility directors to certify compliance with VA scheduling practices and prohibit the use of waivers.

Walorski testified that VA scheduling waivers contributed to long wait times for veterans seeking care that were uncovered in 2013.

“The VA Scheduling Accountability Act would simply require each facility director to annually certify compliance with the scheduling directive, or any successor directive that replaces it, and prohibits any waivers in the future,” Walorski said. “Should a director be unable to certify compliance either because the facility is not in compliance or the director refuses to sign the certification for some other reason, the director must submit a report directly to the secretary explaining why the facility is out of compliance.”

Under the bill, the VA secretary would submit an annual report to Congress listing facilities that have not certified compliance, as well as an explanation for why.

Zeldin testified before the subcommittee about a bill – H.R. 2460 – he introduced to include Adult Day Health Care services as a covered VA expense. The move would expand access to Adult Day Health Care services for disabled veterans who need help with daily tasks.

“Adult Day Health Care allows veterans to interact and socialize with their peers and other individuals enrolled in the program,” Zeldin testified. “Rather than sitting home alone all day, participants in the adult day health care program receive one-on-one attention from medical and support staff while also maintaining an active social schedule through planned events and activities. Family members and caregivers can go about their day without the worry that their loved ones are unattended, and the veteran can continue to remain as active members of their community.”

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