Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) introduced the VA Community Care Wait Time Transparency Act, which would address the unacceptably long wait time some veterans are experiencing when trying to receive community care.
“As Chairwoman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, my top priority is ensuring that VA is providing comprehensive, high-quality care,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “This bill will require VA to address the unacceptable wait times that our nation’s veterans face with the community care program. Care in the community was supposed to speed-up healthcare delivery, not delay needed care, and the lengthy community care wait times are completely unacceptable. America’s veterans deserve better than this.”
Under the MISSION Act standards, veterans are eligible for referral to community providers when they cannot obtain primary care or mental health appointments at VA medical facilities within 20 days or specialty care appointments at VA medical facilities within 28 days.
Unfortunately, VA has not set an overall wait time goal for community care and as a result, veterans’ average overall wait times for community care appointments (from date of request until the date the appointment occurred) has been more than 40 days this year.
Since 2013, GAO has been recommending that VA apply the same wait time goals to community care that it uses to monitor wait times for appointments at VA medical facilities. GAO reiterated this recommendation in a 2018 report that was issued at the same time the MISSION Act was enacted, and despite concurring with both the 2013 and the 2018 GAO recommendations, VA has never implemented them. On September 28, GAO released a new report recommending that Congress require VA to establish a wait time goal.
The VA Community Care Wait Time Transparency Act would require VA to:
- Establish a goal for the maximum number of days — from date of request to date of appointment completion — that a veteran should have to wait for an appointment, and to apply that wait time goal to care veterans receive at VA medical facilities and to care they receive from community providers.
- Publish wait time data for community care on a public-facing website that veterans can access — to include average wait times and the percentage of appointments that occur within the Department’s established wait time goal. That website must be searchable by zip code, medical specialty, and VA Medical Center, similar to VA’s existing website for wait times for appointments at VA medical facilities.