A U.S. senator says he wants to cut wait times for veterans at VA facilities by improving a law meant to give them the option of private care health care.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, toured Wright-Patterson Medical Center on Friday, co-sponsored the Veterans Access to Care in the Community Act, meant to eliminate bureaucracy and streamline community care programs.
“It will help veterans when there are waiting lists at the Dayton VA,” he told reporters at a press conference at Wright-Patterson. “They will get care sooner. I think the same quality care.”
The VA’s Veterans Choice Program allows veterans enrolled in VA health care the option to seek medical services from a private provider under certain circumstances. Those include a patient who has, or will be, waiting more than 30 days for medical care at a VA facility, lives more than 40 miles away from a VA location, or faces excessive travel burdens, according to the federal agency.
“Generally, the Choice program is mostly working,” Brown told this newspaper. “… There are always persistent problems. I don’t want to see veterans have to wait. I know in private hospitals people have to wait often times, but I want veterans to get even better care than they get in private hospitals or at least comparable care.”
Brown’s bill, introduced this month, has had a hearing in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The additional legislation would expand access to emergency treatment and urgent community care; consolidate multiple community care programs into one clinical and administrative system; and improve management of medical records and coordination of patient care, according to Brown’s office.
The senator noted veterans enrolled in VA health care be treated at Wright-Patterson Medical Center under a joint agreement with the Air Force. VA-enrolled veterans, for example, have visited the base hospital for certain specialty care that’s not available at the VA.
Not interested in being vice president
Now that the nation is caught at the height of campaign season, Brown said he is not interested in becoming a Democratic vice presidential nominee despite speculation he may be approached by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to take the No. 2 spot in a general election ticket.
“I love the Senate,” Brown said. “I love getting to work on issues at Wright-Patt and with the Dayton Development Coalition and working with (Dayton) Mayor (Nan) Whaley and all that I get to do to serve this state. I have no interest of a promotion or a higher job. I can’t imagine a better job than this one.”
Brown also said former President Bill Clinton spoke with him Thursday about Hillary Clinton’s win in the Ohio Democratic primary over rival Bernie Sanders.
The former president “was just talking about what happened in Ohio, and he was pretty pleased, obviously,” Brown said. “He’s a smart guy. It’s amazing how much he knows about this state.”
Brown also criticized Senate Republican leaders refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of federal judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“That’s great disrespect to this president, that’s great disrespect to the presidency, and to the U.S. Constitution which says the Senate must, not may, must advise and consent” on a decision on the nominee to the nation’s highest court, the senator said.
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