WASHINGTON, May 27, 2016 — During a congressional hearing May 24, The American Legion delivered written and oral testimony regarding access to healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Director of Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Lou Celli addressed members of the Senate’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, highlighting the Legion’s views on the Care Veterans Deserve Act of 2016.

If enacted, this Act would eliminate the VA’s Veterans Choice Program (VCP) termination date, expand program eligibility, and extend certain operating hours of VA pharmacies and medical facilities.

“We stated at the time and state here again today, that we never supported Choice becoming a permanent program,” Celli said. “The reason is because we know that VA already has every authority granted to it through Choice when it comes to providing contracted care to our nation’s veterans.”

The director also mentioned several contracting vehicles VA already had in place that allowed them to send veterans into their local communities for care, regardless of how far they live from the nearest VA facility. However, there are issues with outside providers not returning medical records in a timely fashion.

“This is an issue that The American Legion was very concerned about,” Celli said. “That was the main reason that the provision in the original act that required Choice contracted doctors to turn over the medical records before getting paid.”

Before concluding his testimony, Celli weighed the pros of the drafted legislation to improve and modernize the current VA disability claims appeals process. “This new proposed process requires congressional approval and will ultimately save money. We’ve done our part – now it’s your turn,” he added.

To see the Legion’s written testimony in its entirety, visit the legislative center http://www.legion.org/legislative/testimony/232825/pending-veterans-affairs-legislation