Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai"i) cosponsored the Ensuring Veterans Access to Care Act of 2014, legislation that would make the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) more accountable, make way for a major new VA medical facility on Oahu, cut wait times, and improve access to health care for veterans. The Senate is likely to consider the new legislation on the floor next week.
"Our veterans and their families have made tremendous sacrifices in service to our nation and we have a responsibility to make sure they get the health care and benefits they have earned," Senator Schatz said. "Veterans facing long wait times to see a doctor and access health care is inexcusable. Our bill will make VA executives more accountable, cut wait times, and establish a major new VA medical facility on Oahu that would double VA clinical services on the island, helping make sure Hawai"i veterans get the timely care they deserve."
Specifically, the Ensuring Veterans Access to Care Act would:
Make VA executives more accountable. The bill would give the VA Secretary the authority to immediately remove underperforming senior executives while ensuring an appeals process for those employees.
Help create new VA medical facilities. The bill would authorize the VA to enter into 27 major medical facilities leases in 18 states and Puerto Rico, including a $15.88 million lease for the Advance Leeward Outpatient Healthcare Access (ALOHA) Center in the Ewa Plain of Oahu. Once completed, the 118,000 net usable square-foot ALOHA Center will double the VA's existing clinical capacity on Oahu, helping veterans get the timely care they need by alleviating the demand for existing services at the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. The facility is initially expected to provide care to 15,000 veterans, with enrollment growing annually as more veterans visit from the North Shore and the center of the island.
Cut wait times for veterans. The bill would standardize the process to make sure patients can get medical care in their community when the VA is unable to provide such care within its stated goal of 14 days.
Address medical staff shortages. The bill would address system-wide health care provider shortages, and authorize and expedite the hiring of new doctors, nurses and other health care providers.
The legislation was introduced by Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).