Bill would encourage more veterans' LTC admissions

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Veterans would gain easier access to nearby long-term care facilities, under legislation introduced Monday in the Senate.

The Veterans Access to Extended Care Act, would let the Department of Veterans Affairs skirt reporting requirements that often delay or prevent placement in skilled care and other settings.  The measure is co-sponsored by Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced companion legislation in the House.

The American Health Care Association endorsed the proposals in a statement issued late Monday.

While the VA is authorized to enter into contracts with extended care providers for veterans, “onerous federal reporting requirements” have dissuaded or prevented many LTC facilities from admitting them, Hoeven noted in a public statement. For example, only 15 out of North Dakota's 80 nursing homes and 1 in every 5 West Virginia facilities currently have VA agreements.

Hoeven argues that those same nursing homes face no such requirements when veterans are accepted through the Medicare program. Two years ago, the VA issued a proposed rule that would make the VA reporting requirements the same as they are for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The Veterans Access to Extended Care Act would make the change permanent.

“Our veterans should not be forced to choose between being near their loved ones and accessing the care they need,” Hoeven said. “Our legislation will make more options available to our former service members who need long-term care services. That means better access to the benefits they have earned and a higher quality of life in their later years.”

During the last Congress, “nearly half” of the Senate and 109 House members endorsed a similar measure, which did not advance.

“We commend the efforts of our Congressional champions on this issue and the VA as we work towards the common goal of ensuring that our veterans have access to extended care services from providers who are closer to veterans' homes and community support structures,” said Clifton J Porter II, senior vice president of government relations at AHCA.