GOP bill would let members of Congress stick with veterans’ health care plan to focus on failing VA

A Republican bill introduced this week would force members of Congress and their staff to get health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, in a move aimed at forcing lawmakers to recognize longstanding problems with the VA .

House and Senate lawmakers and staffers are required to obtain their health coverage through the Washington, D.C., health insurance exchange created under Obamacare. They get access to gold-tier plans, meaning they pay 20% of their health care costs while taxpayers cover 80%.

But, under legislation proposed by Rep. Warren Davidson, an Army veteran and Republican from Ohio, lawmakers and employees would receive VA care at VA facilities “as if such members and employees were veterans.” Davidson says the point is to make lawmakers more aware of the problems with the VA.

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Rep. Warren Davidson, a Republican from Ohio and Army veteran, wants lawmakers to use Veterans Affairs care to become more informed about how the VA should be fixed.
(Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)

“Providing the highest quality care to our veterans is a bipartisan issue that nearly every member of Congress agrees on,” Davidson said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “The VA is charged with fulfilling our nation’s obligation to provide veterans with the health benefits they have earned. To meet that obligation, the VA will require consistent and deliberate congressional oversight.

“When I talk with veterans, they always stress the health care issues for veterans, especially mental health services,” he said. “My bill will ensure that members of Congress have a stake in reforming the VA health care system.”

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The VA has been under intense scrutiny since 2014, when it became apparent that it was systematically reducing veteran wait times for health care to make it appear as if veterans were getting timely care. That exercise concluded that some veterans died while waiting long periods for VA care. And it prompted Congress to create a pilot program allowing some veterans to seek care outside the VA.

Under former President Trump, the option of private care became permanent under the MISSION Act, but the Biden administration has come under criticism for trying to curtail the private health care option. At the 2022 hearing, Republicans criticized VA Secretary Denise McDonough for redirecting a Mission Act link from a webpage that educated veterans about their private care options to a page that signed them up for VA care. encouraged to step up.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Dennis McDonough is under fire from Republicans over the VA's implementation of a law giving veterans the option of using private-sector care.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Dennis McDonough is under fire from Republicans over the VA’s implementation of a law giving veterans the option of using private-sector care.
(Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, last year called it an example of “blatant prejudice” against the Mission Act.

Davidson said, “Since I’ve been in Congress, I’ve supported the VA Mission Act, the VA Accountability Act, and the PACT Act.” “These bills increased access to care, increased benefits and improved quality of care. However, more must be done to reform the VA.”

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Veterans and veterans organizations continue to complain about wait times for care. Through a federal documents request, veterans groups and their allies have found evidence that the VA is fabricating data to make it appear that VA wait times are not as long as they are.

For example, they found that instead of measuring wait times starting on the day the veteran care was requested, the VA is starting the clock when a VA “scheduler” begins the work of setting up an appointment, which can take weeks or months. It can happen even after. The veteran requests care first.

Veterans Affairs has also been criticized for long wait times for veterans at clinics and hospitals across the country.

Veterans Affairs has also been criticized for long wait times for veterans at clinics and hospitals across the country.
(Alistair Pike/AFP via Getty Images)

The presence of short wait times can make it difficult for veterans to qualify for care outside the VA. Under the Mission Act, one factor that qualifies veterans for private sector care is long wait times, and veterans groups say artificially short wait times keep thousands of veterans from seeking care outside the VA. Used to be.

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Last year, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) sued the VA for access to documents detailing the VA’s implementation of the Mission Act. While a judge ordered the VA to produce those documents, AFP returned to Washington, D.C., last month to demand that the judge produce more relevant documents, including papers that show which senior leaders at the VA Missions are trying to limit the use of the Act. ,

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