Gov. Rick Perry today highlighted Texas' efforts to support veterans at a groundbreaking ceremony for the National Intrepid Center of Excellence Satellite Center, which will serve Ft. Hood soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. The governor also proposed a partnership between Texas health care providers and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to allow veterans to use their federal benefits at facilities outside the VA system.
"No state takes its commitment to veterans more seriously than Texas, and I'm proud that this center will stand as a reflection of our unwavering respect and commitment to those who wear the uniform of the United States," Gov. Perry said. "There is no greater charge than taking care of those who have served in our nation's Armed Forces, which is why we are working to offer alternatives for veterans who have found their federal options lacking, or worse, non-existent."
Recent reports of mismanagement and fraud at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) have brought to light systemic problems that have prevented many veterans from receiving the care they need. To relieve wait times for veterans and provide temporary support for the VHA as it implements necessary reforms, Gov. Perry has proposed tapping Texas' network of world-class providers and facilities to expand health care options for veterans in the state.
Providers that have expressed interest include the Baylor Scott and White, CHRISTUS and University of North Texas systems, and hospitals operated by the University of Texas System. These facilities would expand capacity across the state, including the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Central Texas, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Houston and Galveston. The state is continuing to reach out to other providers and the Texas Hospital Association to expand this potential network of facilities.
To ensure these health care providers can focus on caring for veterans rather than navigating bureaucratic paperwork at the VA, Gov. Perry has written to Acting VA Director Sloan Gibson proposing that the VHA work with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to allow providers to bill through the Medicare reimbursement system rather than through the antiquated and cumbersome VHA reimbursement process. The VA could then repay Medicare directly. If approved by the federal government, this would allow veterans to seek treatment at participating facilities immediately, while ensuring providers receive timely repayment.
The groundwork has already been laid for increased partnerships of this kind through the passage of legislation this week by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Additionally, at its annual conference in Chicago yesterday, the American Medical Association's governing body passed a proposal calling on President Obama "to provide timely access to health care for eligible veterans utilizing the health care sector outside the Veterans Administration." For more information, read the Texas Medical Association's endorsement of this proposal here.
In addition to this partnership, Gov. Perry also announced the Texas Veterans Commission is dedicating additional resources to help veterans navigate the VA health care bureaucracy using the Texas Veterans Hotline. Veterans in need of assistance with accessing health care or benefits may call 1-800-252-VETS.
These initiatives build on the governor's recent efforts to assist veterans in light of the VA scandal, and a letter Gov. Perry and several other governors wrote to President Obama about this issue.