NEW: Ernst’s Bipartisan Veterans Bill Passes Senate Unanimously

The former company commander’s bill will help ensure proper vetting of VA providers, quality care for veterans

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) continues her work for Iowa veterans, this time passing her bipartisan legislation unanimously through the Senate to ensure proper care and treatment of our war heroes. Ernst’s bill will help to prevent another tragic event  – like the case of Iowa veteran Anthony French, who, while suffering from a brain tumor in 2017 received improper care from a Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) provider with a history of substandard care – from ever happening again.

“Whether at a VA facility in Iowa or anywhere across the country, my fellow veterans deserve the best quality care possible—it’s the least we can do for these war heroes. Part of this effort is ensuring those treating our nation’s veterans are thoroughly vetted and are providing proper treatment and care,” said Senator Ernst, the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate. “During these trying times in our nation, getting this commonsense, bipartisan bill unanimously through the Senate provides a glimmer of hope for our veterans and their families.”

The Ensuring Quality Care for Our Veterans Act requires that every health care provider hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with a revoked license undergoes a third party review of that provider’s care. If the review determines that a competent practitioner would have managed the veteran’s care differently, the veteran will be notified. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Boozman (R-AR), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) are cosponsors of the bill.

“Our veterans work hard and put their lives on the line for us. When they come home, they deserve quality health care with doctors and providers they can trust. This is a commonsense bill that will help bring more accountability to the VA. I’m proud to join Senator Ernst on this bipartisan bill as she continues to lead the fight for better care for our veterans,” said Senator Grassley.

“Implementing an additional clinical review of the care administered by VA providers who have previously had their license revoked by a state medical board is a commonsense protective measure. It is key to ensuring veterans get the quality care they have earned. Our nation made a promise to take care of those who served in uniform. Senate passage of this bill is important to fulfilling that commitment and ensuring veterans have access to reliable and accurate health information,” said Senator Boozman.

“It is our responsibility to make sure our veterans are cared for. This legislation brings us one step closer to ensuring accountability in the VA health system, and I’m proud to see it pass the Senate today,” said Senator Coons. “As our country continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that our veterans have confidence in the quality of the health care they receive.”

“Our West Virginia veterans have dedicated their lives to protecting our freedom, and we owe it to them to do all we can to ensure they receive quality care,” said Senator Capito. “The Ensuring Quality Care for Our Veterans Act will accomplish this by making sure the VA hires qualified individuals that have been thoroughly vetted. It also ensures that proper actions are taken if irresponsible care is provided. I’m thrilled the legislation has passed the Senate today and will now head to President Trump’s desk for his signature.”

Background:

Following a December 2017 report in USA Today that the VA hired providers with revoked licenses, the VA took corrective action by taking appropriate human resources action and issuing new guidance to prevent health care providers with revoked licenses from being hired in the future. The USA Today story found that the VA—including the one in Iowa City—knowingly hired providers who had their licenses revoked or had misconduct allegations. 

Senators Ernst and Grassley wrote a letter to the VA asking for answers on these hiring practices, specifically about the provider in Iowa City. The VA responded to their letter stating that they were doing a national review of this process to ensure compliance under current law.

Senators Ernst and Grassley again pushed for additional information from the VA about the process of the national review, including when results would be made public and if families of veterans treated by these unqualified providers would be notified.  The VA responded, indicating that they are still working through their national review of VA providers.

At a Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee hearing last year, Senator Ernst urged her colleagues to support this bill, sharing the story of Iowa veteran Anthony French, who, while suffering from a brain tumor in 2017, received improper care from a VA provider with a history of substandard care.

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