Kuster, Bilirakis, Peters, Coffman Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Access to Care for Veterans
(Washington, DC) – Today, Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Scott Peters (D-CA), and Mike Coffman (R-CO), all of whom are members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and long-term champions for veterans and strong supporters of community health centers, introduced the VA Community Care Enhancement Act to expand access to healthcare services for veterans outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), particularly in rural communities. The legislation would create a pilot program to integrate VA care with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) in five communities across the country. With the challenges facing VA care in some parts of the country, including access, accountability, and lack of transparency, partnerships with successful FQHCs provide an opportunity to improve veterans’ health care. The pilot programs established under this legislation would serve as a model for how to improve access to care for veterans across the country.
“Veterans in New Hampshire and across the country have faced unacceptable barriers in access to care, especially in rural communities,” said Rep. Kuster. “Expanding access to care outside of the VA through the Choice Program was a step in the right direction but unfortunately Choice has not delivered effectively for all veterans. Our legislation would explore innovative new ways to connect veterans with care providers by establishing partnerships between VA and FQHC that are already providing quality care in local communities. I’m hopeful that this can serve as a model across the country so that we can ensure all veterans are able to access the services and care they deserve.”
“Community health centers in my district have a proven track record of delivering outstanding, comprehensive health care in a cost effective manner,” said Rep. Bilirakis. “They offer a wide array of services including primary care, dental services, mental health and substance abuse treatment. They are an example of what is working in our health care system, and I believe they should be expanded. If veterans are unable to receive the quality of care they deserve within the VA system, I want them to have the choice to take advantage of the value that community health centers offer without encountering bureaucratic barriers. This bill will help ensure that goal, and I look forward to its passage.
“Veterans have earned the best healthcare our nation has to offer, but they often face barriers to quality and timely care,” said Rep. Peters. “Partnering with Federally Qualified Health Centers, which are vetted to meet certain patient-care and quality standards, provides veterans with expanded access to high-quality, affordable health care. San Diegans already take advantage of these resources. There is no reason these resources should not be extended to our nation’s heroes.”
“Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers (FQHC) provide quality healthcare in underserved areas, and can be found throughout Colorado and the rest of the country. Veterans deserve access to quality care in a timely and efficient manner. This is what they have earned through service and sacrifice in defense of our freedoms,” said Coffman, a Marine Corps combat veteran. “With wait times in the VA Eastern Colorado Healthcare System at an unacceptable high, FQHC’s can offer more accessible and hassle-free healthcare services in the community for our veterans. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this critical piece of legislation.”
“We ask a lot from our men and women in uniform, and Community Health Centers feel a solemn obligation to provide them with the health care that they deserve upon their return home,” said Tom Van Coverden, CEO, the National Association of Community Health Centers. “We applaud Representatives Kuster, Bilirakis, Peters, and Coffman for their bi-partisan effort to continue to improve access to America’s warfighters. Community Health Centers enthusiastically accept this responsibility.”
FQHCs are non-for-profit organizations located in underserved parts of the country. These unique facilities are regulated by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA).