By Abigail Hartley
Veterans Affairs announced a proposal this afternoon to replace the Choice Program’s current “30-day/40-mile” eligibility yardstick and overhaul other aspects of the VA healthcare system. The legislation is called the “Veterans Coordinated Access & Rewarding Experiences (‘CARE’) Act,” and it’s currently in the hands of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees.
The CARE Act is “designed to improve Veterans’ experiences with and access to health care, building on the best features of VA’s existing community care programs and strengthening VA’s ability to furnish care in its facilities,” the department said in a recent press release. Rather than using wait times and distance to determine how and where a veteran is eligible to receive care, the CARE Act would “place the Veteran and his or her physician at the center of the decision process.”
Among its other goals, the bill also focuses on improving staff numbers and facilities at VA hospitals while making it easier for veterans to use “a network of walk-in clinics,” like urgent care centers, for minor illnesses and injuries.
“We want Veterans to work with their VA physicians to make informed decisions that are best for their clinical needs, whether in the VA or in the community, and this bill does just that, while strengthening VA services at the same time,” VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin said in the press release.