May 17, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON—Today Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga.) introduced the Expanding Veterans’ Access to Choice Act to improve the ability of veterans to receive private health care options when their access to VA services is limited.

The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 gave veterans the option of receiving VA-covered care through certain private providers if one of three criteria were met: if the veteran lived more than 40 miles away from a VA medical facility with a primary care physician; could not schedule an appointment with the VA within 30 days; or faced an unusual or excessive burden in traveling to the VA location.

In practice, however, the VA has often chosen to use distance alone to determine whether a veteran is approved for Choice care. The result is that the VA is blocking many veterans who are legally eligible to see a private provider from receiving that care.

In northeast Georgia, for example, a veteran who lived within 40 miles of a VA clinic was unable to secure an appointment because that clinic was at capacity. The VA then refused the veteran's request to see a physician at a private clinic, according to the options provided under the 2014 Choice Act. The VA instead instructed the veteran to make a round trip of more than 200 miles to see an eye doctor at a distant VA clinic despite his participation in the Veterans Choice Program.

“The current reality is that men and women who have risked their wellbeing on behalf of their fellow Americans now face bureaucratic opposition when they attempt to schedule a doctor’s appointment. This is unacceptable.

“I introduced the Expanding Veterans’ Access to Choice Act to clarify Choice eligibility so that the VA cannot wrongly block our heroes from receiving the health care that they deserve. American has promised to deliver quality health care to all veterans, and I want to help us keep that promise in Georgia and across the country,” explains Collins.

This bill establishes that veterans who live within 40 miles of a VA location but cannot access effective care through that location remain eligible to receive Choice care through approved private health care centers.

Original co-sponsors include Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas).