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Rep Introduces Bill To Help Vets Left Out To Dry By VA Choice Program

Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne is accusing the Department of Veterans Affairs of deliberately misinterpreting legislation to hurt veterans and avoid downsizing.

The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act was passed in 2014 after the VA was hit by a series of scandals, allows veterans to access private healthcare options if they meet certain conditions. One of the central conditions is that veterans have to be over 40 miles from a VA facility to qualify for private healthcare options.

According to Byrne, the original idea behind the act was for veterans to be able to access care not offered by their local VA facility. However, Byrne maintains that the VA decided to breach congressional intent by interpreting the legislation, such that if any VA facility exists within 40 miles of veterans, then veterans may not receive private healthcare under the program. This is still true regardless of whether the VA facility is able to provides services veterans actually need.

“This is very self-serving on the VA’s part,” Byrne told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “If the VA Choice Program is allowed to be taken to its logical conclusion, then it would downsize the VA, which is exactly what Congress intends. This is a government agency clinging onto life at the expense of veterans.”

The problem is that not all VA facilities are equal.

“We have a clinic in Mobile, Alabama, an outpatient clinic that provides a limited number of outpatient services for veterans, but if you have inpatient needs, or need to see a specialty physician, they simply don’t offer it there,” Byrne told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “But because it technically is a VA facility, veterans are forced to use it for whatever health needs they have. Even though we have a university medical center and several major private centers, our veterans might have to travel as far as another VA facility in Montgomery to receive the help they need.”

Byrne’s new legislation, the Real Choice for Veterans Act, aims to fix the problem by ensuring that if the local VA facility within a 40 mile range isn’t adequate, veterans can simply head to private sector care.

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