Larsen Advocates for Education, Timely Health Care for Veterans

Jul 11, 2014 Issues: Veterans

WASHINGTON—Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, pushed today to make sure veterans can access the health care and education they need.

Larsen is cosponsoring a bill that would fix the long wait times veterans face when seeking care at Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) doctors’ offices across the country. The Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 allows veterans who live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA facility or those who have been unable to get an appointment scheduled to obtain health care with a private doctor. The bill also speeds up the VA hiring process to increase the number of medical professionals able to provide health care.

Educational opportunities for veterans also would improve because of this bill. Veterans using the Post 9/11 GI Bill would get in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.

“As veterans end their military service, Congress needs to make sure these women and men can get the health care and education they need to help them succeed in civilian life. Breaking down barriers so all people can fully participate in our economy and our democracy is one of my top priorities in Congress. Making progress on this goal means supporting the more than 75,000 veterans in my district and the millions more across the country by ensuring access to timely health care and affordable education.

“This bill makes needed changes to the VA by giving veterans a wider range of options for their health care and holding the VA more accountable for providing that care in a timely way,” Larsen said.

Larsen also recently voted in favor of bipartisan legislation to make it easier for the Secretary of the VA to remove senior staff and to help veterans facing long wait times at VA facilities get treated by other providers. These bills have passed both the House and Senate, and the two chambers are reconciling differences to develop a final bill.

Larsen urged the members working on the conference committee to consider including three additional improvements to veterans’ health care and education:

  • Improving access to fertility counseling and treatment for veterans and their spouses;
  • Allowing the VA to share information about veterans’ education benefits with their college or university, which would improve educational institutions’ ability to provide student veterans with guidance about financial aid and class selection; and
  • Expanding services available at Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs), including mental health and urgent care.

“As Congress works to improve services that veterans receive, I have asked my colleagues to recognize that too many veterans are returning home with injuries that make conceiving children impossible without assistance. Veterans need to have access to advanced fertility treatment and adoption assistance so they can achieve their dreams of starting families. My Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvements Act would help accomplish this.

“I have also asked my colleagues to include a provision that will make it easier for colleges and universities to help veterans make decisions about their education. My Veterans Education Transparency Act would help make sure that veterans are not be saddled with unexpected tuition bills because schools have incomplete information about their GI benefits.

“I recently met with a group of veterans’ service providers from Northwest Washington who told me veterans want the convenience of accessing more types of care at their local CBOC.  I asked the conference committee to expand these services as we invest in the CBOC network.  This is another example of how my constituents’ needs inform the work I do in Washington, D.C.,” Larsen said.

Full text of the letter to the conferees is available here.