Washington, D.C. — Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee Chairmen Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Jack Bergman (R-MI), along with Ranking Members Julia Brownley (D-CA) and Ann Kuster (D-NH) released the following statements following introduction of the VA Prescription Drug Accountability Act:
“Keeping pressure on the VA when it comes to combating the national prescription drug abuse epidemic is not a Democrat issue or Republican issue – it is an American issue,” said Wenstrup. “I’m pleased to cosponsor this bipartisan bill to close a loophole in VHA’s ability to effectively communicate with state prescription monitoring programs.”
“Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It extends beyond cultural, racial, and socio-economic boundaries and impacts every part of our society—even those who have served and fought for this country,” said Bergman. “That’s why transparency and accountability are so essential in the VA’s internal monitoring and information sharing procedures. I’m proud to support this legislation that takes critical steps to improve those processes and protect our Veterans and their loved ones from the effects of opioid addiction.”
“I co-sponsored the VA Prescription Drug Accountability Act because we need to improve VA’s internal monitoring, and information sharing practices, related to opioid prescription drugs,” said Brownley. “Increasing accountability and transparency will improve the quality of care at the VA and help prevent opioid addiction among veterans.”
“The Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the largest prescribers of narcotics in the country and any effective national prescription drug monitoring program must include the VA,” said Kuster. “Last year, the data for hundreds of thousands of non-Veteran patients seen at the VA were not shared with PDMP programs due to a simple technical oversight, greatly reducing their effectiveness. We are in the grips of a national opioid addiction epidemic and this commonsense reform will help improve the monitoring of opioid prescription drugs, which have helped fuel this crisis.”
Background: This bill, led by Rep. Kuster, would clarify current law to stipulate that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is required to disclose information to state controlled substance monitoring programs for anyone – veteran or non-veteran – who is prescribed these medications through VA.
Under current law, when VHA providers prescribe a controlled substance, VHA is required to disclose that information to the appropriate state controlled substance monitoring program. Due to VistA’s inability to differentiate between dependents and other non-veterans, VHA is currently only transmitting data for veteran patients, leaving out approximately 10% of VHA’s patient population who are dependents or other non-veterans who meet certain qualifications to receive prescriptions from VHA.