In August, President Obama signed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act. The act seeks to provide a number of remedies to problems uncovered earlier this year within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including wait times for and inadequate access to health care.
The cornerstone of the act is the requirement that VA facilities provide authorization for veterans to seek private medical treatment if a wait time is longer than 30 days or if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility.
According to Army Times, this provision is especially important because even as recently as July 2014, more than 30,000 veterans nationwide still faced wait times of more than three months.
Nonetheless, experts say that this change will not happen overnight. Ian de Planque, deputy director for the American Legion, told Army Times that he expects full implementation to take up to a year.
In the meantime, VA schedulers are contacting some waitlisted veterans directly to arrange for private medical care. The VA reports that it has contacted more than 260,000 waitlisted veterans nationwide to arrange timely private care.
The act includes a broad array of other requirements. Some relate directly to care — for example, the requirement that treatment for military sexual trauma be improved. The act also extends the existence of a comprehensive treatment program for veterans with mild to severe traumatic brain injury.
In addition, the act provides for a stronger school loan repayment program for medical professionals joining the VA. VA officials have pointed to a lack of medical staff as a leading reason for the wait times and ensuing scandal at the VA.
The act also provides the Secretary of Veterans Affairs much broader authority to fire executives who perform poorly.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald has set an initial 90-day benchmark to evaluate progress on the implementation of the act.
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