Congress Passes VA Overhaul

On Thursday, Congress approved a widespread overhaul of the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). TMA has been calling on the nation's leaders to clear existing bureaucratic landmines  slow payment and lack of interaction between the VA and the private sector, for instance  so private-sector physicians can help get veterans the timely care they need. 

The legislation pours $10 billion into helping those veterans who can't get a VA appointment within 30 days or who live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA facility obtain health care outside the VA system from private-sector physicians and at Department of Defense or Indian Health Service facilities.

The law's $17 billion in total emergency funds includes $5 billion that allows the VA to hire new employees and $1.3 billion to lease 27 new medical facilities. The law prohibits the VA from using wait times to gauge workers' job performance, instead focusing on quality of patient care.  

Last month, TMA President Austin King, MD, unveiled TMA's registry of private physicians willing to see patients in the VA health care system. Dr. King shared information about the registry with the director of every VA hospital, clinic, and veteran center in the state. 

TMA developed the registry after the American Medical Association House of Delegates, at the urging of Texas physicians, voted overwhelmingly to ask President Barack Obama to provide timely access to entitled care for eligible veterans through the health care sector outside the VA system until the VA can provide care in a timely fashion.

So far, more than 350 TMA member physicians have signed up for the association's registry. If you haven't signed up for the registry, please go to the TMA website and check the "I am willing to serve veterans" box.

Action, Aug. 1, 2014