Updated: Schock, Schilling Pass Amendment to Increase Access to Health Care Services for Veterans
Amendment expands vital health care pilot programs to assist veterans
Jun 8, 2012 -
NOTE: Congressman Aaron Schock and Congressman Bobby Schilling held a joint media conference call to discuss the successful passage of their Veterans Access to Health Care amendment. Click here to listen to conference call.
Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Congressman Bobby Schilling (R-IL) teamed up to successfully pass an amendment that will make it easier for veterans to access quality health care. The amendment directs $16 million within the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Rural Health to expand two pilot programs known as Project ARCH and Project HERO. The amendment was approved during debate on the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill that was passed by the House on Thursday evening.
“Nearly every veteran in my district is faced with the inconvenience of limited access to VA health care services close to home. There are too many stories to share of veterans who have to travel two or more hours for a one hour doctor’s appointment just to get in the car again and drive back home the same day,” said Congressman Aaron Schock. “While Central Illinois enjoys some of the finest health care services in the nation, when looking at cost and convenience this amendment makes sense for our veterans. By expanding Project ARCH and Project HERO we will be continuing our support for programs that we know work, cut down travel time for veterans and allow them access to facilities on the convenience of their own schedules.”
“You can tell a lot about a country by looking at how it treats its veterans,” Congressman Bobby Schilling said. “Our veterans have given so much for our country, and we must follow through with our promise to provide them with the care they need. I’ve talked to many constituents in the 17th District who, like me, believe we must continue to make improvements to our veterans’ health care. The amendment Congressman Schock and I are offering would do just that, helping more veterans receive the care they need and deserve closer to home.” Schilling on December 16, 2011 introduced H.R. 3723, the Veterans Enhanced Health Care Experience Act, legislation based on the success of Project HERO and the promise of Project ARCH, both of which allow, but do not require, veterans to access the health care they need in their hometowns with their own doctors.
“One of the toughest battles for any veteran is being able to conveniently access quality health care when living in a rural community that is not near a VA clinic. In many cases veterans have to spend half their day in travel time to and from a VA clinic. This is an unnecessary burden and cost for older veterans,” said Bob Welborn, Commander, Limestone American Legion Post 979, Bartonville, IL. “I applaud Congressmen Schock and Schilling for advocating for the expansion of health care for our veterans. The passage of their amendment is the type of proactive solution that will help improve access to quality care for our veterans who need it the most.”
At the end of 2009, there were 3.3. million veterans living in rural areas, however only about 2.2 million of these rural veterans used VA services. This amendment would specifically dedicate $16 million within the Veterans Affairs Medical Services, Office of Rural Health to expand Project ARCH and Project HERO and veterans’ access to covered health care services through qualifying non-Department of Veterans Affairs health care providers to new areas within each veterans integrated service networks (VISN) they currently operate and new VISNs all together.
In April 2011, the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General released an Audit of the Office of Rural Health (ORH) (where both Project HERO and Project ARCH are funded) where it was revealed that “at the end of FY 2010, Office of Rural Health (ORH) did not obligate $16 million of the $533 million received during FYs 2009 and 2010 which constituted in missed opportunities for ORH to improve access and quality of care for rural veterans by not having sufficient controls to ensure the use of all available appropriated funds.”
Project ARCH and Project HERO have both proven successful during their initial pilot programs. Project ARCH has a no show rate of less than 1 percent and PROJECT HERO has a no show rate of less than 5 percent, both are well below the average for veterans visiting VA facilities. The Schock-Schilling Amendment directs that $16 million be used within the Rural Health account to expand programs such as ARCH & HERO as well as instruct the VA to use the funds to continue to grow the private provider model
(Access Received Closer to Home): Allows veterans in 5 VISN areas to receive their health services from non-VA healthcare providers. In order to participate, they have to enroll and meet the VA’s distance travel criteria. In this case, the VA will pay the negotiated rate to non-VA providers who offer services to eligible veterans.
(Healthcare Effectiveness through Resource Optimization): Allows a veteran to get a specialized medical service outside of the VA health system. The VA contracted with Humana Veterans Healthcare Services (HVHS) so a veteran can go to one of their prescreened, network providers to receive the medical service. In order to participate, a veteran has to be located in one of the 4 veterans integrated service networks (VISNs) that the program is currently running in and enroll in the program.