Senate Appropriators Urge VA to Abandon Flawed Choice Program in Alaska
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski voted for the 2017 Military Construction/Veterans Affairs (MILCON-VA) appropriations bill which successfully passed out of the full Appropriations Committee. The bill, which contains several Alaska-specific priorities secured by Senator Murkowski as a member of MILCON-VA Appropriations Subcommittee, allocates federal resources for military construction projects and the Veterans Affairs (VA) system across the nation. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
$561 million requested by the Pentagon to support crucial defense projects in Alaska was included in the bill. Click here for details on the military construction provisions of the bill.
“I am heartened by the increased funding for women veterans, the continued focus on ending veteran homelessness, and a new focus on security and suicide prevention at the VA domiciliaries, which includes the domiciliary in Anchorage," said Murkowski. "This bill clearly expresses the principle that a veteran should enjoy access to healthcare, no matter where in the nation he or she resides. I thank the committee for very clearly expressing that this principle applies equally if the veteran lives in our 49th state – the state of Alaska.”
Veterans Affairs (VA):
Murkowski worked to include language in the bill and accompanying report that addresses a series of issues important to Alaska veterans.
- Access to Care: Urges the VA in Alaska to return to the integrated system of community care in place prior to implementation of the Choice Act, by directly referring eligible veterans to community providers, Community Health Centers, and Native health facilities for care that the VA cannot provide in its own facilities and in communities not served by the VA.
- VA Purchased Care: Authorizes the VA to purchase care for rural veterans from Community Health Centers as well as the Alaska Native health system. The term rural has been expanded to include the Matanuska-Susitna and Kenai Peninsula Boroughs.
- VA Staffing: Addresses staffing shortages within the Alaska VA Healthcare System, including the longstanding physician vacancy at the Wasilla Community Based Outpatient Clinic, by directing the VA to identify and resolve their provider recruitment challenges.
- Anchorage VA Outpatient Clinic: Directs the VA to disclose its reasons for not re-opening two operating rooms in the Anchorage VA Outpatient Clinic and Regional Office Building after they were shut down in May 2015 due to dust and ventilation issues. In addition, presses the VA on whether it intends to repair the operating rooms in Fiscal Year 2017 or subsequent years.