New bill would allow vets to seek care at facilities outside VA network

Legislation introduced by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) on Thursday would allow veterans to seek healthcare at facilities that are not run by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The Veterans’ Health Care Flexibility Act was designed to help reduce scheduling issues and wait times for care throughout the VA’s 150 medical centers. The legislation comes in the wake of reports that found widespread problems in the VA.

“Over the past few weeks, I have heard from constituents and veterans alike about their troubles dealing with the VA,” Ribble said. “In some cases, it takes months and months to receive hearing aids or other basic medical care from these facilities. The status quo is simply unacceptable, and our veterans should not be forced to wait years for the VA to someday clean up its act. They deserve timely care now. That is why I introduced the Veterans’ Health Care Flexibility Act, to provide veterans the option of receiving care from either a VA facility or a private doctor, or both.”

Ribble’s legislation follows a report from the VA Office of Inspector General that found more than 1,700 veterans were on a list awaiting care in Phoenix, with wait times as long as four months. The report also found growing wait times throughout the VA system.

“Empowering veterans to have more healthcare choices provides additional flexibility for veterans and injects increased competition and options in the overall health care system, benefiting veterans and their families,” Ribble said. “Our veterans sacrificed to protect our country from harm and have earned their health care benefits that have been promised. The federal government needs to keep its word by providing the best care possible.”