No. 009-99  
IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              May 21, 1999                       (202) 628-2700 Ext. 158 


The following press release is being re-issued by Vietnam Veterans of America in that its content is of major interest to our members: 


Room 333 Cannon HOB.  For More Information Contact:  Bill Crandell @ 202-225-9756, Washington, DC 20515 

FOR RELEASE: May 19, 1999 

Evans Calls for Quick Action on Legislation to Be Addressed By Veterans' Panel Today

Washington, DC - Congressman Lane Evans (D-IL) today called for quick action on the Veterans' Millennium Health Care Act, major veterans' health legislation to be examined in a hearing before the House Veterans' Affairs Health Subcommittee today.  Long-term care, emergency care and chiropractic care for veterans, which are high legislative priorities for Evans, are all addressed in the Act. 

The bill also contains a "report and wait" requirement which responds to the Evans concern that VA is dismantling its inpatient programs without adequate planning to meet veterans' health care needs in outpatient or community settings.  The "report and wait" requirement follows other efforts by Congress to ensure important services and programs remain available to veterans as VA restructures its health care programs with a flat-line budget. 

Last month, Evans presented findings from a staff report on recent changes inVA's delivery of long-term care to veterans.  "We surveyed VA's Chiefs of Staff to determine how VA was responding to veterans' growing need for long-term care", said Evans.  "Survey findings indicated that there were substantial erosions in the long-term care program -- VA may be treating more veterans, but it is discharging them after much shorter stays that may not satisfy their need for ongoing care."  The Report concluded with several recommendations contained in the Millennium Plan.  Evans said that the findings of the report were instrumental in the Millennium Plan addressing long-term care in VA. 

The Millennium Plan establishes what Evans refers to as "a good baseline" for meeting veterans' needs for long-term care.  "It guarantees that veterans with the highest priority for care-those with health care conditions due to military service-receive all of the long-term care they need", said Evans. 

The bill also requires VA to maintain its long-term care program and enhance the services it provides in the home and community.  "VA is under enormous financial pressure and long-term care is expensive to deliver", said Evans.  "Some disturbing changes in VA's long-term care program have stemmed from financial pressure.  It is past time for Congress to give clear direction to VA about who must be treated." 

A leading advocate for providing veterans with reimbursement for emergency care, Evans introduced two bills in the last Congress and H.R. 135, the "Veterans Emergency Health Care Act", this year to allow VA to reimburse enrolled veterans for expenditures they made during medical emergencies.  "Veterans who rely on VA for their health care have been financially devastated by an emergency health care episode", said Evans.  Evans related stories of veterans who had tried to get to VA during a health care crisis only to be told by VA staff to go instead to the closest health care facility for treatment.  When the bills came, VA refused to reimburse veterans. 

"It's unconscionable that VA would abandon these veterans during health care emergencies", declared Evans. 

VA agreed. Asked to identify legislation it would need to comply with the President's "Patient Bill of Rights", VA indicated it would need authorization form Congress to reimburse emergency health care for the veterans it enrolled.  A proposal contained in the President's budget partially addressed VA's request for full authority, but the Millennium Bill goes farther by allowing VA to reimburse any high-priority veteran for emergency care service expenses. 

Evans has also advocated allowing more veterans to choose chiropractic carein VA and introduced a bill last year to establish a chiropractic service in VA which was supported by the American Chiropractic Association and the International Chiropractors Association.  The Millennium Bill will allow VA to work with chiropractors in five sites to create opportunities for more veterans to choose this type of care for their musculo-skeletal conditions.  "Chiropractors have proven they can often provide equally effective care for certain conditions at less cost than physicians", said Evans.  "Veterans deserve the opportunity to choose chiropractic care." 

The Millenium Plan also authorizes the VA to increase cost sharing for some items for certain veterans.  A plan for facility realignment is also included.  "I want to make sure that VA can maintain services for veterans that rely on it for their health care.  VA's costs for pharmaceuticals has doubled over the last ten years; allowing more veterans to acquire hearing aids and eyeglasses from VA has also put a tremendous strain on VA's ability to acquire prosthetics.  We need to ask some veterans to chip in for these benefits which are not provided by most health care insurers-it's still a significant benefit for veterans." 

Evans also acknowledged the need to develop a legislative formula for realigning VA's resources.  "Since VA has allowed so much decision making to take place in each of its 22 networks, Congress's ability to ensure that VA is going through a fair process has diminished considerably.  In the bill, VA is provided a framework that better ensures the views of veterans, employees and other interested parties are taken into account.  The Committee is committed to work further with employees to ensure that VA is responsive to concerns." 

"This is a bill that has many positive gains for veterans. It deserves to be acted on promptly as a major part of a bipartisan legislative agenda for veterans", said Evans. 

- END - 

VVA's point of contact for additional information is Scott D. Campbell at (202) 628- 2700 Ext.158. 

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.  VVA's founding principle is 
"Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another." 

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