Veterans’ Health Care Issues in the 109
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
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.