Veteran Groups Are Lining Up Against Potential TRICARE Fee Increases

The Congressional Budget Office, in estimating the impact of key provisions in House and Senate defense authorization bills for fiscal 2018, spotlights the higher out-of-pocket costs that military folks would face if various Senate initiatives are in final bill. On health care, for example, Senators propose that TRICARE beneficiaries face higher co-pays for drug prescriptions not filled on base. Also, retirees would see higher TRICARE fees and deductibles. Veteran groups are lining up against the bill.

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Congress Finalizes Overhaul of Veterans Affairs Appeals Reform

House lawmakers have finalized reforms regarding how veterans disability appeals claims are handled, potentially trimming years off the process once the changes are put in place. The appeals reform measure was previously passed by the Senate. A key veterans group called the initiative a chance to enhance veterans rights, modernize and expedite the veterans appeals process, and ultimately reduce costs through greater efficiency.

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Bill Would Expand VA Telehealth Services Across State Lines

Telehealth services for veterans have expanded dramatically in recent years, but a group of lawmakers worries that federal rules governing that remote care haven’t kept up.  A bipartisan group of House and Senate members have reintroduced legislation designed to boost access for veterans by easing those rules, arguing that patients in rural areas or facing travel difficulties are being disadvantaged.  As one representative said: “we should continue to find new ways to connect veterans with the providers that they need, no matter their physical location.”

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Confirmation of VA Secretary Nominee Anticipated

Senate leaders have scheduled a confirmation hearing for VA secretary nominee David Shulkin on  February 1st, and signaled a likely easy path to approval of his nomination.  If confirmed, the 57-year-old Shulkin, who has served as VA Under Secretary for Health since June 2015, would be the first non-veteran ever to hold the post.  Many senators and veterans advocates have signaled support for him.

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Congress to tackle military health reform next year

Senate and House lawmakers are looking ahead to fiscal 2017, with a focus on transforming the $48 billion military health care system.  Members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees decided against tackling health care reform as part of the fiscal 2016 defense bill.  But with that legislative cycle ending, leaders of both committees are promising “a major oversight and reform effort” to the military health care system.

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Senate to Vote on Advanced Funding for VA

When Congress returns to session, the Senate will vote on legislation to provide all Veterans Affairs Department funding a full year in advance, preventing government shutdowns or budget gridlock from interrupting veterans services.

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Email Alert – 1 Aug 2014: Senate Passes Veterans Health Bill

On Thursday, the Senate passed a compromise bill allowing veterans to seek private care and adding $17 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs budget.  This will allow the VA to hire more doctors to address long wait lists, open 27 new outpatient clinics, and implement other initiatives. The final vote in favor was 91-3.
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Email Alert – 28 July 2014: House and Senate Negotiators Agree to Compromise on Plan to Fix VA Health System

The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have scheduled a news conference Monday afternoon to unveil a plan expected to authorize billions in emergency spending to lease 27 new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care.

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