WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives Diana Harshbarger (R-TN) and Chip Roy (R-TX) introduced the Innovative Cognitive Care For Veterans Act to address the needs of veterans suffering from cognitive impairments through a pilot program initiative. This bill instructs the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to implement a program that partners with private organizations to provide Veterans access to new and innovative care solutions.
The pilot will launch as a part of the Veterans Community Care Program with the goal of connecting veterans who have cognitive impairments with new and innovative care models. It will also allow for more veterans to age gracefully at home or other appropriate settings, with the freedom of using private partners to obtain the care they need.
"It is an honor to represent our veterans in Congress. This legislation is part of my mission to improve health care quality and accessibility for our veterans by providing access to telehealth and other innovative technologies that slow the progression of cognitive disorders," said Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger. "As I tell my son and grandsons, when America mourns the lost life of a veteran, we also mourn the loss of their stories, lessons, and patriotism. We owe each hero inexpressible thanks. Given the projected increase in the number of veterans developing cognitive impairments, the VA must explore alternative care models to ensure our veterans and their caregivers have access to top-of-the-line care when and where they need it, a small symbol of gratitude for their career of service and sacrifice. This bill is a step forward."
"Veterans should have the freedom to avail themselves of the incredible innovative healthcare options that are available in the private sector. This is particularly vital when we consider the growing need for long-term care for our nation’s aging heroes and the myriad challenges and struggles associated with cognitive impairment," said Congressman Chip Roy. "I am proud to stand alongside Rep. Harshbarger and co-sponsor her bill to open up more care options for veterans suffering from cognitive impairment under the VA’s Community Care Program."
Marlon Ferguson, Chief Executive Officer of National Association of Veterans' Research and Education Foundations:
“Creating an evolved and inclusive space for veteran cognitive care goes beyond the status quo and puts veterans at the forefront of a transition to an improved form of care. The Innovative Cognitive Care for Veterans Act has potential to be a crucial step forward and we fully support its purpose and mission.”
Russ Duerstine, Executive Director of Concerned Veterans for America:
“It’s tragic veterans still don’t have the same options as most Americans regarding where and when they can access health care. The Innovative Cognitive Care for Veterans Act would hold the VA accountable to help veterans access health care in different ways, rather than act as a bureaucratic barrier by keeping them trapped in a failed VA system. CVA supports telehealth which can help thousands of veterans. There are thousands more who need access to dozens of varieties of specialty care, timely and quality specialty care, that need in person treatment. Rep. Harshbarger’s bill would make getting that specialty care a reality for veterans, rather than an exception.”
- According to a 2020 study by the Office of the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Policy and Planning at the VA, it is projected that the number of VA patients with Alzheimer’s dementia will increase by 28.9 percent between FY 2021 and FY 2033, amounting to an estimated 48,000 new patients with cognitive impairments.
- VA expenditures for long-term care are growing fast. A GAO reportfrom 2020 estimates that the amount the VA will spend for long-term care is projected to double to $14.3 billion by 2037.
- As described in the above GAO report, the VA also faces both current and future workforce shortages, and other challenges with providing long-term care services to the more than 2.8 million estimated VA enrolled veterans living in rural areas.
- As observed by the VA, Veterans can also be prone to unique factors that increase their risk for future cognitive impairment. For example, it has been found that Vietnam-era veterans exposed to Agent Orange are nearly twice as likely as those without exposure to receive a dementia diagnosis. This and other data underscore the need for the U.S. government to do more for Veterans with respect to cognitive care.
Participation in the program is limited to the first 500 veterans who apply and are diagnosed with a cognitive disorder associated with aging such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or others. The duration of the program would be five years.
Solicitation of private partners would focus on their ability to support both patients and caregivers at home and through home care agencies. Consideration would be given to partners with experience working with cognitively impaired populations and are capable of providing a level of care that enables Veterans to age at home, if available and appropriate. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs will provide a list of eligible partners based on their application for participation in the program.
An evaluation of the program will report to the VA Secretary and be distributed to relevant committees in Congress.
Bill text can be found HERE
This article originally appeared here: https://harshbarger.house.gov/media/press-releases/harshbarger-introduces-innovative-cognitive-care-veterans-act