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Bill by Sen. Crapo would streamline and improve veterans health care

Senate Banking Committee member Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho questions Wells Fargo Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, during the committee's hearing. (Susan Walsh / AP)
Senate Banking Committee member Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho questions Wells Fargo Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, during the committee's hearing. (Susan Walsh / AP)
By Crystal Duan Correspondent

WASHINGTON – Veterans would have better access to health care in their communities under legislation introduced Monday by Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo.

The Improving Veterans Care in the Community Act would consolidate programs to cut wait times for veterans, and would address other concerns raised by Idaho veterans and private health care providers.

Through statewide veterans’ surveys and town meetings, Crapo’s office found that veterans were satisfied with the quality of care they receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs, but are frustrated with long wait times for appointments that equates to a lack of access. Some veterans also had specific medical needs that couldn’t be met at the nearest facility.

The new veterans care act would allow veterans in Idaho who have to travel long distances to qualify for the new Care in the Community Program and seek specialty care where they live.

“We have made veteran support a top priority,” said Crapo, a Republican. “We’re expanding the access to local care and simplifying all of the bureaucracy. And hopefully we can solve many of the critical problems by streamlining the process for our veterans seeking care.”

Crapo’s bill addresses problems with the current Veterans Choice Program. While the Choice program allows veterans living more than 40 miles from a VA facility to schedule private care, it can take up to 90 days to receive that care. Instead, the Improving Veterans Care act would consolidate and streamline veterans’ care services offered by eight separate programs, and would create a mechanism for bypassing long wait times.

Crapo’s findings come after talking to Idaho veterans and veteran service organizations. Funding for the new act could possibly come from money the VA would save from streamlining its services, he said.

“I think this will get very strong support (in Congress),” he said. “This is what came from the Idaho veterans, but the concerns they raise are shared across the country by many veterans who are raising the same concerns.”

Added Crapo, “Obviously, as is so often the case, there will be a process of educating and helping to develop the support nationwide for this legislation. But I think all veterans will strongly support these kinds of solutions.”

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