Following ongoing reports of waiting lists, delayed care, and gross mismanagement at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities, U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) joined Senators John McCain (R-Arizona), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), and Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) in cosponsoring their legislation to improve veterans’ health care by allowing veterans facing long wait times and travel distances to receive care from the doctor or provider of their choice.
“The VA has the solemn responsibility to the men and women who have served our country with distinction to provide the highest quality care, and it is inexcusable that this treatment went unchecked for so long,” said Thune. “Rather than wait on a VA list to see a doctor, our American heroes ought to have the opportunity to go to a provider outside the VA, if they choose. The Veterans Choice Act will provide needed reform by offering choice and flexibility, while keeping the VA health care system intact.”
The Veterans Choice Act would allow veterans to choose their provider if the VA cannot schedule an appointment for a veteran within their wait time performance metrics or if the veteran resides more than 40 miles away from any VA medical center or Community Based Outpatient Clinic. The bill also provides the VA Secretary with the authority to demote or fire senior executive service employees based on performance.Thune has been critical of the administration’s handling of the VA crisis. On May 12, 2014, Thune introduced legislation (S.2316) that would direct the VA inspector general to expand its current, limited review (currently at 42 facilities) to a nationwide investigation of veteran wait times. Thune has also called on the VA to halt the Environment Impact Statement that it has started to close the Hot Springs VA and focus its efforts on addressing the current crisis and ensuing our veterans receive the care they need and deserve.