May 21, 1999
(202) 628-2700 Ext. 158
VETERANS' MILLENNIUM HEALTH CARE ACT
The following press release is being re-issued by Vietnam Veterans of
America in that its content is of major interest to our members:
NEWS FROM CONGRESSMAN LANE EVANS, RANKING DEMOCRATIC MEMBER COMMITTEE
ON VETERANS AFFAIRS, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
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
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
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