Bennet Amendments would Help Complete VA Hospital, Increase Access to Care for Veterans

Amendments to the “Hire More Heroes Act” Would Benefit Colorado Veterans

Washington, DC - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet offered four amendments at the Senate Finance Committee hearing of the Hire More Heroes Act to help complete the Veterans Hospital at Fitzsimons and to expand access to Veteran's Administration (VA) health care for rural Coloradans.

"We need to continue exploring all available options and employ the necessary resources to finish the construction of the VA hospital in Aurora," Bennet said. "To date, construction of this facility has been terribly mismanaged at the expense of our veterans and our taxpayers. We also have more to do on improving access to care for rural veterans. Whether you're a veteran living on the Front Range or rural Colorado, these amendments will help increase access to health care for all of our service members."

Bennet's first amendment provides the VA with additional flexibility to fund the completion of the veterans hospital. The amendment is based on a bipartisan bill Bennet introduced today with Senator Cory Gardner in the Senate and Representative Mike Coffman in the House. It would allow the VA to use funds from the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 to finish the medical center. Another amendment would require the VA to enter into a contract with the Army Corps of Engineers that gives them the authority to manage, design, and enter into the contracts necessary to facilitate the completion of the veterans hospital.

Bennet is also offering two additional amendments to help veterans in rural parts of the state access health care. The Veteran Choice Program allows veterans to access non-VA health care facilities if they live more than 40 miles outside of a qualified VA medical facility. The first amendment would change the way that 40 miles is measured to account for the actual distance traveled, rather than the straight-line distance between the veteran and the VA medical center. A second amendment would allow veterans to access non-VA care if they live within 40 miles from a VA facility but the services they require are not offered at that VA facility.

Under the Affordable Care Act employers with more than 50 employees are required to provide health care insurance or pay a limited fee if they choose not to provide coverage. The Hire More Heroes Act modifies the Affordable Care Act by allowing employers to exempt veterans from the 50 employee limit, as veterans already have access to health care through TRICARE or the VA.

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