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Rounds, Blackburn Introduce Legislation to Provide Veterans with More Health Care Options

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) reintroduced the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act. This legislation would allow veterans enrolled in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health system to receive care through a local community provider.

Currently, veterans must meet certain eligibility criteria, and the VA must approve the provider referral to seek care in non-VA facilities under the Veterans Community Care Program. This legislation would remove the VA from the referral process to allow veterans to seek care where it is most convenient. 

“Veterans across the state of South Dakota have made incredible sacrifices so that we can be free,” said Rounds. “Our veterans deserve the freedom to choose where they receive care, whether it’s at the VA Clinic in Wagner or through a local community provider in Mobridge. I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to improve veterans’ access to the health care services they have earned.”

“Tennessee is home to over 400,000 veterans, who deserve the very best care our nation has to offer and the freedom to choose the care that best fits their needs,” said Blackburn. “We should eliminate the layers of bureaucracy and expedite access to Community Care for all veterans. The Veterans Health Care Freedom Act would create a three-year pilot program within the VA that allows veterans to schedule necessary appointments at non-VA medical facilities and gives them access to information about eligibility, cost sharing, treatments, and providers – so that they are empowered to make informed decisions.” 

Specifically, the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act would:

  • Create a three-year pilot program within the VA Center for Innovation Care and Payment to improve veterans’ access to health care in the free market.
  • Require that the pilot program be carried out in at least four Veteran Integrated Service Networks (VISN).
  • Improve access to free market health care by allowing veterans to access primary, specialty and mental health care outside of their corresponding VISN and at non-VA facilities.
  • Require the VA to give veterans information about eligibility, cost sharing, treatments and providers so they are able to make informed decisions with respect to selection of primary and specialty care providers and other available treatments.
  • Make the pilot program permanent nationwide four years after enactment of the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act.
  • Require the VA to submit reports to the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees on the implementation and results of the pilot program, as well as the final design.
  • Fund the pilot program using appropriations otherwise made available to the Veterans Health Administration. 

Senators Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) joined Rounds and Blackburn in introducing this legislation.  

Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Representative Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.).

Click HERE for full bill text.