Veterans to Get Expanded Access to Primary Care Physicians

Legislation Extends VA Coverage to Include Civilian FPs When Needed

After passing both houses of Congress with overwhelming support, legislation designed to increase medical access for military veterans who are struggling to obtain basic health care at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities now awaits President Obama's signature. According to an Aug. 4 White House press briefing(, Obama is scheduled to sign the bill Aug. 7 at Fort Belvoir, Va.

The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act outlines several measures intended to improve access and reduce the long waiting periods that many veterans have endured when trying to meet with a physician. In addition to providing financial support to hire more physicians, the bill makes it easier for veterans to see physicians outside VA facilities, including community-based family physicians.

"The AAFP supports the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act passed by Congress and encourages the President to promptly sign it into law," said AAFP President Reid Blackwelder, M.D., of Kingsport, Tenn., in an Aug. 1 statement. "In the wake of the VA scandal, the AAFP was the first physician organization to make specific recommendations to President Obama and congressional leaders about how they could leverage America's civilian family physicians to ensure timely access to primary care services for veterans."

Currently, if a veteran chooses to visit a physician outside the VA network, he or she must use other insurance or pay for the visit out of pocket. Under the legislation, family physicians who participate in Medicare will be eligible to sign agreements with the VA to offer care for veterans.

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