The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) passed the “Caring for Our Veterans Act” (S.2193), sponsored by SVAC Chairman Johnny Isakson. The act reforms the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system by providing veterans easier access to private-sector doctors and the expanded VA’s care givers assistance programs. The bill is estimated to cost $54 billion over 5 years. It also includes $3 billion in additional funding for the current VA Choice program. The bill would establish a permanent, streamlined “Veterans Community Care Program” that provides veterans access to health care services in their own communities. Under this legislation, a veteran and their doctor will decide where that veteran can receive care, taking into consideration the veteran’s healthcare needs, availability and quality of both VA and community care. The bill expands eligibility for the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to veterans of all generations, including Vietnam-era veterans. In addition, the legislation will help improve existing VA health care and services by removing barriers for VA healthcare professionals to practice telemedicine. It also strengthens opioid prescription guidelines for VA and partnering community care providers and eliminates impediments to hiring and retention of VA healthcare professionals. The House Veterans Affairs Committee has similar legislation (H.R.4242) expected to be considered and passed soon. For more information, contact Sandra at the Veterans Service Office at 602 Strong Ave on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 3pm, or call 365-3612.