On May 21, 2013, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health, held a hearing to review pending legislation involving the delivery of veterans’ health care services. The bills reviewed by the Subcommittee addressed issues ranging from improving veterans’ access to timely mental health care, to improving benefits for the children of catastrophically disabled veterans. Paralyzed Veterans of America testified before the Subcommittee, along with four other veterans’ service organizations, and the principal deputy under secretary for health from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Two of Paralyzed Veterans' legislative priorities for the current year were among the bills reviewed by the Subcommittee. The first of the two bills included H.R. 288, legislation to increase the maximum age for children eligible for medical care under the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). CHAMPVA is a comprehensive health care program in which the VA shares the cost of covered health care services for eligible beneficiaries, including children up to age 23. As a part of health reform, all commercial health insurance coverage increased the age for covered dependents to receive health insurance on their parents plan from 23 years of age to 26 years, in accordance with the provisions of P.L. 111-148, the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” This change also included health care coverage provided to service members and their families through TRICARE. Today, the only qualified dependents that are not covered under a parent’s health insurance policy up to age 26 are those of 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans covered under CHAMPVA. As this unfortunate oversight has placed a financial burden on these disabled veterans whose children are still dependent upon their parents for medical coverage, Paralyzed Veterans expressed strong support for H.R. 288.
The second bill, H.R. 1284, proposes to expand coverage under the VA beneficiary travel program to non-service connected veterans with a spinal cord injury or disorder, double or multiple amputations, or vision impairment. Paralyzed Veterans fully supports this bill, and testified that for this particular population of veterans, their routine annual examinations often require inpatient stays, and as a result, significant travel costs are incurred by these veterans. Paralyzed Veterans believes that H.R. 1284 will eliminate cost as a barrier for veterans who have sustained a catastrophic injury like a spinal cord injury or disorder, and help ensure that they receive timely and appropriate medical care.
Additionally, Paralyzed Veterans also supported the “Veterans Timely Access to Health Care Act,” which proposes to establish standards of access to care for veterans seeking services from VA medical facilities; H.R. 984, legislation that would establish a national task force on urotrauma; and Paralyzed Veterans did not take an official position on the, “Demanding Accountability for Veterans Act of 2013,” which aimed to improve the accountability of the VA secretary to the inspector general of the VA. Paralyzed Veterans did not support the, “Veterans Integrated Mental Health Care Act of 2013,” a bill that would authorize VA to provide certain veterans with mental health care through care-coordination contracts outside of the VA. Currently, the VA is working on multiple initiatives to improve care-coordination with private providers and increase timely access to mental health services. Therefore, Paralyzed Veterans explained to the Subcommittee that the current VA mental health initiatives should be further developed before additional resources are put into another program for non-VA care-coordination.
Learn more about the work of Paralyzed Veterans of America on Capitol Hill