The American Legion presented testimony during a congressional hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Wednesday. Jeff Steele, assistant director of the Legion’s Legislative Division, addressed concerns regarding the Commission on Care’s recommendations to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to improve the delivery of health care.

The commission recently released an 18-point plan to overhaul the VA health-care system. The American Legion supports many of the commission’s recommendations, Steele told lawmakers. “However, the report contains at its heart a fundamental flaw which much be recognized and addressed.”

The American Legion agrees with Commissioner Michael Blecker, who stated in his dissent that “the adoption of this proposal would threaten the survival of our nation’s veteran-centered health care system as a choice for the millions of veterans who rely on it.”

Steele expressed the Legion’s support for the creation of fully integrated health-care networks that would make VA responsible for coordination of care, and meet the needs of the growing veteran population requiring VA services and outside care from community providers. “These networks must be developed and structured in a way that preserves VA’s capacity to deliver high-quality care while specifically preserving its core competencies and specialized services,” he said.

Additional Legion testimony backed consolidation of existing VA Community Care Programs and budget reform that would allow VA to continue their efforts to improve and expand veterans’ access to health care.

“Ultimately, we strongly believe that this is a cost that must be met for VA to meet the needs of veterans,” said Steele.

The assistant director concluded his statement urging lawmakers – some of whom attended a press conference held by the Legion prior to the hearing – to pass legislation modernizing the VA’s archaic appeals process, and presented a call to action. “What are we going to do to get this done?”

To view Steele’s submitted testimony, click here.