VA Moves to Increase Vets' Access
Written by Editor   
Saturday, August 23, 2014 12:09 AM

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says it has started moving ahead with its efforts to improve healthcare for veterans, starting with increasing access to private-practice physicians.  Even before the "Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014" became law earlier this month, it had stepped up veterans' referrals to private physicians, said VA Secretary Robert McDonald.  

The new legislation, which was signed into law by President Obama on Aug. 7, mandates that veterans who wait an unusually long time for care, or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, will be covered for care they receive from a private-practice physician.  The bill also provides new money to hire additional primary and specialty healthcare providers, as well as funding for enhanced incentives to attract more doctors, nurses, and other providers to the VA.

Access to care will likely improve under the new law, especially for older veterans, Wergin said. "Under the old system, [veterans in my community] could see me but it would be outside of their VA benefits," so veterans who were on Medicare would rely on that program to pay for the visit.  But with the new law, "My understanding is if they're referred to our practices, there's an arrangement [for us] to be paid by the VA, and then they're not subject to Medicare copays," he said.