Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. Attorneys at Law

Vets' health care options to be expanded by new law

As one of the federal government's largest agencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a lot on its plate. Its employees oversee all the benefits for veterans, such as financial assistance, pensions and health care, which they earned through their service to the country. With more than a decade of continued military action in places, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA's rolls has burgeoned. This has left the agency struggling to deliver veterans' benefits to their intended recipients, including those in Alabama.

Meanwhile, recently, the agency's leadership has been under siege. David Shulkin was fired as VA Secretary in March, and the White House's pick to replace him withdrew his nomination amid scandals. The current nominee for the position has not been confirmed. The combination of such disarray and budget woes related to swelling benefits rolls have slowed down VA's response time in delivering services.

In 2014, for example, veterans who were waiting for appointments at a VA hospital in the Southwest died before being seen by health care providers. This prompted VA to explore private health care options for vets. And, this month the White House signed into law a bill that will expand those options for veterans. According to a USA Today report, the VA Mission Act was adopted with strong support from both sides of the aisle in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Under the act, the VA will increase the opportunities that vets will have to seek private health care by merging a number of private care programs. Much of the plan involves evaluating, upgrading and enhancing existing VA health care facilities. In areas where such facilities will be shuttered, veterans can use VA-funded private health care to seek treatment, rather than traveling great distances to do so.

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