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RL32961

RL32961

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Published by: Patricia Dillon on Nov 12, 2010
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02/21/2014

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Congressional Research Service 
 
˜
 
The Library of Congress 
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Order Code RL32961
Veterans’ Health Care Issuesin the 109
th
Congress
Updated October 26, 2006
Sidath Viranga PanangalaAnalyst in Social LegislationDomestic Social Policy Division
 
Veterans’ Health Care Issues in the 109
th
Congress
Summary
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides services and benefits toveterans who meet certain eligibility criteria. VA carries out its programs nationwidethrough three administrations and the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). TheVeterans Health Administration (VHA) is responsible for veterans health careprograms. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is responsible for providingcompensation, pensions, and education assistance among other things. The NationalCemetery Administration’s (NCA) responsibilities include maintaining nationalveterans cemeteries.VHA operates the nation’s largest integrated health care system. Unlike otherfederal health programs, VHA is a direct service provider rather than a health insureror payer for health care. VA health care services are generally available to allhonorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who are enrolled in VA’shealth care system. VA has a priority enrollment system that places veterans inpriority groups based on various criteria. Under the priority system VA decides eachyear whether its appropriations are adequate to serve all enrolled veterans. If not, VAcould stop enrolling those in the lowest-priority groups.Congress continues to grapple with a number of issues facing current veteransand new veterans returning from Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and OperationIraqi Freedom (OIF). They include trying to ensure a seamless transition process forveterans moving from active duty into the VA health care system, and improvingmental health care services such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatmentprograms for returning veterans.In recent years, VA has made an effort to realign its capital assets, primarilybuildings, to better serve veterans’ needs. VA established the Capital AssetRealignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) initiative to identify how well thegeographic distribution of VA health care resources matches the projected needs of veterans. Given the tremendous interest in the implementation of the CARESinitiative in the previous Congress, the 109
th
Congress would continue to monitor theCARES implementation.Several veterans’ health-care related bills have been passed by either the Houseor Senate. At present, these bills are pending action in the other chamber.This report will be updated as events warrant.
 
Contents
Background......................................................1Veterans Health Administration (VHA)................................2History..................................................2Transformation of VHA.....................................3Evolution of VeteransEligibility for VA Health Care.................5Eligibility Reform.........................................6Health Care Issues in the 109
th
Congress...............................12Introduction.................................................12Seamless Transition of Returning Servicemembers..................13Data and Trends..........................................13Transitioning of Seriously Injured OEF andOIF Veterans into the VA Health Care System..............14VA Activities to Assist the Transitioningof OEF and OIF Service Members........................18Exchange of Health Information.............................19Two-Year Eligibility for Veterans Returningfrom Iraq and Afghanistan..............................20Mental Health and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)............21PTSD Claims Review Controversy...........................24Setting Funding for VA Medical Care.............................25Continued Suspension of Priority Group 8 Veterans..................27Effect of the Enrollment Freeze..............................27VAs Cost Recoveries from Medicare.............................28Filling of Privately Written Prescriptions at VA.....................30Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) ..........31VA as a Model for Other Health Care Systems......................37Beneficiary Travel Program.....................................39Veterans’ Health Care Legislation — Enacted into Law...................41The Veterans Housing Opportunity andBenefits Improvement Act of 2006(P.L.109-233, H.Rept. 109-88, H.Rept. 109-263,S.Rept. 109-139) .........................................41Limitation on Premium Increasesfor Reinstated Health Insurance of ServicemembersReleased from Active Military Service....................41Inclusion of Additional Diseases and Conditionsin Diseases and Disabilities Presumedto be Associated with POW Status.......................42VeteransHealth Care Legislation Passed by the House................42Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-living Adjustment Actof 2005 (H.R. 1220, H.Rept. 109-162)........................42Demonstration Project to Improve Business Practicesof Veterans Health Administration.......................43

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