U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, applauded the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs for passing their Tribal Veterans Health Care Enhancement Act (S. 2417), legislation that would improve tribal veterans’ access to health care. The committee approved the bill, which now heads to the full Senate for its consideration, by voice vote.
S. 2417 would allow the Indian Health Service (IHS) to cover the cost of veterans’ copays for services rendered at the Veterans Health Administration (VA) and would require the agencies, in consultation with Indian tribes, to outline an implementation plan through a memorandum of understanding. Tribal veterans who seek treatment at IHS are often referred to the VA for services that require a copay because those services are unavailable at IHS facilities.
“IHS and VA – two federal agencies that continue to catch headline after headline for all the wrong reasons,” said Thune. “The agencies’ failures are long and well-documented, and I am working hard to find solutions to correct these systemic problems that have caused hardship for tribal members throughout the Great Plains area. This bill is part of a broader effort to ensure tribal citizens, specifically those who’ve fought in the U.S. military, receive the quality care they’re owed. I’m glad the full Senate will now have the opportunity to consider this common-sense bill.”
“The Tribal Veterans Health Care Enhancement Act is a great step toward fulfilling a promise to our tribal veterans, and I’m pleased to see our bill moving forward,” said Rounds. “Native Americans who bravely served our country shouldn’t have to worry about additional costs when seeking health care services. The adequate and timely care of all veterans and tribal members must be a top priority.”
Specifically, this legislation would:
- Allow for IHS to pay for veterans’ copayments for services rendered at a VA facility pursuant to an IHS referral;
- Require IHS and VA to enter into a memorandum of understanding to provide for such payment; and
- Require a report within 45 days of enactment with respect to:
- The number, by state, of eligible Native American veterans utilizing VA medical facilities
- The number of referrals, by state, received annually from IHS to the VA from 2010 to 2015; and
- Update on efforts at IHS and VA to streamline care for eligible Native American veterans who receive care at both IHS and VA, including changes required under the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and any barriers to achieve efficiencies.
Click here for bill text.