A June 2014 internal audit by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found that more than 120,000 veterans waited at least 90 days for appointments for health care or never received appointments; private sector hospitals and health systems have developed technology to eliminate wait times and ensure that every available appointment is used
The bipartisan bill would direct the Secretary of the VA to create a pilot program that will allow veterans to use available technology to self-schedule and confirm appointments for health care at VA medical facilities
WASHINGTON, DC— U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) have introduced a bipartisan bill that would establish a patient self-scheduling appointment system at Veterans Affairs Medical Facilities. A June 2014 internal audit by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found that more than 120,000 veterans waited at least 90 days for appointment for health care or never received appointments. Private sector hospitals and health systems are now leveraging technology to eliminate wait times and ensure that every available appointment is used. The bipartisan Faster Care for Veterans Act would direct the Secretary of the VA to commence a pilot program under which veterans could use the internet to schedule and confirm appointments for health care at VA medical facilities.
“Excessive wait times can put veterans’ lives at risk, but
state-of-the art technology that makes it easier to schedule appointments already exists and is being used in the private sector,” said Klobuchar. “Our veterans have earned the right to use the same technology to schedule their medical appointments without unnecessary red tape and delays. This bipartisan bill would take an important step forward in ensuring that our brave men and women who have sacrificed so much have access to the medical care they need and deserve.”
“Our veterans deserve timely and quality care,” said Senator Ernst. “This bill takes the needed steps to live up to that promise by implementing a long overdue pilot program to allow veterans to schedule and confirm their appointments at VA centers online. While we still have work to do to address long wait times at the VA, this legislation is an important step toward reforming and modernizing the VA appointment process to provide greater choice and faster service for our veterans.”
Upon enactment of the Faster Care for Veterans Act, the VA would be required to commence an 18-month pilot program that would allow veterans to self-schedule, confirm, and modify outpatient and specialty care appointments in real time through the internet. This technology allows veterans to immediately schedule appointments canceled by other veterans and schedule appointments 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Klobuchar fought to include provisions in the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring the Defense Department and the VA to report on steps they are taking to reduce the excessively-long backlog of disability evaluations. To help support the response to the crisis in veterans’ access to health care, she cosponsored the VA Management Accountability Act of 2014, bipartisan legislation that would help bring accountability to the VA system and better serve veterans by allowing the VA to replace senior officials found responsible for mismanagement and mistreatment of veterans. A version of this legislation was included in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, which passed the Senate in July 2014 and was signed into law in August 2014, to improve oversight of the VA’s health care system, increase available resources to hire more medical staff, and provide increased flexibility for veterans to seek care outside the VA system.