Senate Committee Grills Veterans Administration

Last week the Senate Veterans Affair Committee held a hearing focusing on the implementation of the Community Care Network. Later this year, the Department of Veterans Affairs will roll out a new program mandated by the Mission Act and aimed at offering more health care choices to veterans. But lawmakers expressed skepticism about how the latest option for veterans to use private care would work.

Congress passed the VA Mission Act in 2018, which included the Community Care Network (CCN) — a program similar to the old VA Choice program, but with “streamlined” eligibility criteria, one community care program and an urgent care benefit.

Two companies, OptumServe and TriWest Healthcare Alliance, coordinate payments and have created a local network of physicians for the CCN. OptumServe piloted the CCN and built a network of more than 166,000 health care providers in more than 235,000 care sites in Region 1, which includes East Coast states from North Carolina to Maine.

While Democratic members of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs were still concerned the Mission Act is privatizing VA health care, the concern over whether the reforms would solve the VA’s notoriously long wait times and staffing shortages was bipartisan.

“This committee has concerns about how the VA is building out the network and its ability to meet veteran demand,” Chairman Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said in his opening statement. “A recent VA OIG report predicts wait times could worsen once Mission is in full effect.”

Veterans Health Administration officials and representatives from the two companies implementing the CCN tried to quell the senators’ concerns by highlighting the number of providers they’ve signed up.

Lawmakers also addressed the issue of late payments to providers. Officials from the VA claimed they were making a lot of progress to the backlog of payments and that they expected to be completely caught up on late payments within 90 days.

HCAOA is planning to meet with VA officials soon to discuss particular problems home care providers are having. If you are experiencing ongoing late payment issues, please send details of your problem to HCAOA’s lobbyist, Patrick Cooney, at patrick@federalgrp.com. We look like to share these examples with VA officials when we meet with them soon.

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