GOP bill would make members of Congress have a veteran’s health care plan to draw attention to VA failure

A Republican bill introduced this week would force members of Congress and their staff to get health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, a change meant to force lawmakers to acknowledge longstanding problems with the VA.

Legislators and House and Senate staff must obtain their health coverage through the Washington, DC health insurance exchange, created under Obamacare. They get access to gold tier plans, which means 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 staff would receive VA care at VA facilities “as if such members and staff were veterans.” Davidson says the point is to make lawmakers more aware of the issues with VA.

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Rep. Warren Davidson, an Ohio Republican and Army veteran, wants lawmakers to use Veterans Affairs care so they can become more familiar with how VA should be fixed.
(Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)

“Providing our veterans with the highest quality care is a bipartisan issue on which nearly all members of Congress agree,” Davidson said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “VA is charged with meeting our nation’s obligation to provide veterans with the health benefits they’ve earned. To meet that obligation, the VA will require constant and intentional oversight from Congress.

“When I talk to veterans, they always emphasize the urgency surrounding veterans’ health care issues, particularly mental health services,” he added. “My bill will ensure that members of Congress have a stake in improving the VA health care system.”

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The VA has been under close scrutiny since 2014, when it became clear that it consistently underreported veterans’ wait times for medical care to make it appear as if veterans were receiving timely care. That practice led to findings that some veterans died while waiting long periods of time for VA care. And that led Congress to create a pilot program that allows some veterans to receive care outside of the VA.

Under former President Trump, the private care option became permanent under the MISSION Act, but the Biden administration has been criticized for trying to downplay the private healthcare option. In a 2022 hearing, Republicans criticized VA Secretary Denis McDonough for redirecting a MISSION Act link from a web page educating veterans about their private care options to a page encouraging them to enroll in the VA care.

Denis McDonough, secretary of Veterans Affairs, is under fire from Republicans for implementing VA legislation that gives veterans the option of using private sector care.

Denis McDonough, secretary of Veterans Affairs, is under fire from Republicans for implementing VA legislation that gives veterans the option of using private sector care.
(Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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

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

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Veterans and veteran organizations continue to complain about wait times for care. Through federal document requests, veterans’ groups and their allies have found evidence that the VA is again generating data to make it appear as though VA wait times are not as long as they are.

For example, they found that instead of measuring wait times from the day a veteran seeks care, the VA starts the clock when a VA “scheduler” begins the job of scheduling an appointment, which can be weeks or even months after an appointment. the veteran first seeks care.

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.
(Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Images)

The occurrence of short wait times can make it difficult for veterans to qualify for care outside of VA. Under the MISSION Act, one factor that makes veterans eligible for private sector care is long wait times, and veterans’ groups say artificially short wait times prevent thousands of veterans from getting the care they need. outside the VA.

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Last year, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) sued the VA for access to documents detailing VA’s implementation of the MISSION Act. While a judge ordered the VA to produce those documents, AFP returned before a Washington, DC, judge last month to demand that it produce more relevant documents, including documents revealing which top VA leaders are trying to limit the use of the MISSION Act. .

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