Text: H.R.2661 — 113th Congress (2013-2014)All Bill Information (Except Text)

There is one version of the bill.

Bill text available as:

Shown Here:
Introduced in House (07/11/2013)


113th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 2661

To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a standardized scheduling policy for veterans enrolled in the health care system of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
July 11, 2013

Mr. McCarthy of California (for himself, Mr. Coffman, Mr. McKeon, Mr. Hunter, Mr. Campbell, Mrs. Davis of California, Mr. Calvert, and Mr. Issa) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs


A BILL

To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a standardized scheduling policy for veterans enrolled in the health care system of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Veterans Access to Timely Medical Appointments Act”.

SEC. 2. Findings.

Congress finds the following:

(1) The Secretary of Veterans Affairs is statutorily obligated to provide eligible individuals who served in the Armed Forces with access to health care and benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs related to such service.

(2) The Secretary has given the Department the goal of scheduling a primary care medical appointment within seven days of the date requested by the patient and or the provider and scheduling a specialty care medical appointment within fourteen days of the date requested by the patient and or the provider.

(3) The ability of the Secretary to accurately schedule and provide timely access to medical appointments is critical to ensure the health care needs of veterans are met and medical conditions do not worsen because of delays in receiving medical treatment.

(4) An audit by the Comptroller General of the United States found that medical appointment wait times reported by the Veterans Health Administration of the Department are unreliable.

(5) The Comptroller General found that without reliable measurement of how long patients are waiting for medical appointments, the Secretary is not able to identify areas that need improvement and therefore cannot mitigate problems that contribute to wait times.

(6) The Comptroller General found that the unreliable data and measures for wait times create a discrepancy between the positive results the Department publishes and what veterans actually experience.

(7) The Comptroller General found that the Veterans Health Administration inconsistently implements its scheduling policy across medical centers of the Department, which impedes scheduling timely medical appointments.

(8) The Comptroller General found that oversight of compliance with such scheduling policy, such as ensuring the completion of required scheduler training, was inconsistent across facilities.

(9) The Comptroller General found that the management by the Secretary of telephone service, including lack of staff dedicated to answering phones and unreturned phone calls, impede veterans’ access to timely medical appointments.

(10) Among the four medical centers of the Department reviewed by the Comptroller General, patient complaints regarding unreturned phone calls ranked among the top two categories of complaints during fiscal year 2012.

(11) The Comptroller General found that in January 2012, the Veterans Health Administration distributed best practices for telephone access that, if implemented, could help improve telephone access to clinical care.

(12) The Secretary is not meeting the statutory obligations of the Secretary to provide veterans with timely access to medical appointments so that such veterans can receive benefits and health care by the Department in a timely manner.

SEC. 3. Improvement of medical appointment scheduling policy for veterans.

(a) Standardized scheduling policy.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall implement a standardized policy to ensure that a veteran enrolled in the health care system established under section 1705(a) of title 38, United States Code, is able to schedule—

(A) primary care medical appointments within seven days of the date requested by the veteran or the health care provider on behalf of the veteran; and

(B) specialty care medical appointments within 14 days of the date requested by the veteran or the health care provider on behalf of the veteran.

(2) IMPLEMENTATION.—In implementing the policy under paragraph (1), the Secretary shall—

(A) ensure that such policy—

(i) will not be subject to interpretation or prone to scheduler error; and

(ii) provides the Secretary with reliable data regarding the length of time that veterans are waiting for appointments described in paragraph (1) that the Secretary can use to accurately report the performance of the policy as compared to the goals of the policy;

(B) ensure that the Veterans Health Administration carries out uniform procedures with respect to such policy;

(C) issue detailed guidance to the directors of the Veterans Integrated Service Networks to ensure the consistent implementation of such policy at each medical center and other related facilities of the Department;

(D) ensure that only employees of the Department who have completed required training are allowed to schedule medical appointments; and

(E) make public annual performance reports for each Veterans Integrated Service Network with respect to such policy.

(b) Resource allocation.—

(1) ASSESSMENT.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and each 180-day period thereafter, the Secretary shall assess the resources of each Veterans Integrated Service Network to determine the ability of the Network to meet the scheduling requirements described in subsection (a)(1).

(2) ALLOCATION.—The Secretary may reprogram funds and allocate or transfer staff and other resources within the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Integrated Service Network to ensure that each Network meets the scheduling requirements described in subsection (a)(1).

(3) NOTIFICATION.—The Secretary shall notify Congress of any reprogramming made pursuant to paragraph (2).

(c) Phone access.—The Secretary shall direct each medical center of the Department to provide oversight of telephone access and implement the best practices outlined in the telephone systems improvement guide of the Veterans Health Administration, including, at a minimum, practices to ensure that—

(1) calls are answered in a timely manner and the messages of patients will have a return call not later than 24 hours after the patient leaves the message; and

(2) a call center at each such medical center is properly staffed to meet the needs of the veteran population served by the medical center.

(d) Inspector General report.—The Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs, in consultation with veterans service organizations, shall submit to Congress an annual report on the progress of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in implementing this Act. Each such report shall include, for the time period covered by the report, each of the following:

(1) An assessment of the reliability of data regarding the wait times for appointments described in paragraph (1) of subsection (a) as required by paragraph (2)(A)(ii) of such subsection.

(2) An assessment of the extent to which the Secretary met the telephone call timeframes as required by subsection (c).

(3) An assessment of the extent to which medical appointments scheduled at Department medical facilities reflect the date that the veteran (or health care provider on behalf of the veteran) requests for such appoint.

(4) As assessment of the extent to which medical appointments scheduled at Department medical facilities were not changed within the scheduling system of the Veterans Health Administration unless such changes were requested by the veteran (or health care provider on behalf of the veteran).