Flexible health care for veterans

By Kris Schuller | kris.schuller@wearegreenbay.com

Published 06/10 2014 09:18PM

Updated 06/10 2014 10:46PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WFRV) Legislation aimed at providing veterans with timely health care was passed in the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon. The bill passed unanimously as a way to ensure medical care for our nation's heroes.

With a just released audit of the Veterans Affairs (VA) medical system showing 57,000 veterans nationwide have waited more than 90 days for a medical appointment, Tuesday federal lawmakers in the House took action - passing the Veterans Access to Care Act.

"This opens up health care to veterans in a much broader form and I'm pleased with it," said Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wisconsin).

The bill allows any VA eligible veteran to see any doctor of their choice, if they live 40 miles from a VA facility or have been waiting longer than 14 days for an appointment.

Congressman Ribble introduced a similar bill a few weeks ago proposing more patient flexibility, by allowing vets to receive care outside the VA system.

"I spoke with Chairman Jeff Miller, chair of House Committee on Veterans Affairs, before I dropped my bill," said Ribble. "And he encouraged me to put mine in play because it would strengthen the negotiations to get the broadest possible reform we could get."

Veterans like Bob Krausert say the bill provides more options.  Perhaps especially helpful as Green Bay's new VA clinic, struggles to hire doctors for all health care specialties.

 "If they live in Hurley for example," said Krausert who serve in Vietnam. "If they could go to their closest medical facility - get seen in a week, a couple days, that's great."

 The bill allows flexibility for two years, while also requiring an independent review of the VA and reports to Congress on reforms underway. All part of a plan to make sure a backlog of vets waiting for care becomes a thing of the past.

 "What I'm hoping to do - is at the end of this we have a functional VA program that's streamlined and responsive to the patients they're serving," Ribble said.

 A version of the bill is working its way through the U.S. Senate - expected to pass later this summer.

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