VA Proposed Rule Includes Troubling Provision Restricting Veterans’ Ability to Receive Care from Their Chosen Provider

The October 16, 2017 Federal Register included a proposed rule published by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that intends to “reorganize and update the current regulations related to prosthetic and rehabilitative items, primarily to clarify eligibility for prosthetic and other rehabilitative items and services, and to define the types of items and services available to eligible veterans.  While the 48 page proposed rule will require some time to be reviewed completely, there is a provision in the proposed rule that is of immediate concern to AOPA.

Page 29 of the proposed rule includes a provision regarding how prosthetic, orthotic, and other rehabilitative services will be delivered to veterans.  The proposed language states the following:

“VA will determine whether VA or a VA-authorized vendor will furnish authorized items and services under § 17.3230 to eligible veterans. When VA has the capacity or inventory, VA directly provides items and services to veterans. However, VA also may use, on a case-by case basis, VA authorized vendors to provide greater access, lower cost, and/or a wider range of items and services. We would clarify in regulation that this administrative business decision is made solely by VA to eliminate any possible confusion as to whether a veteran has a right to request items or services generally, or to request specific items or services from a provider other than VA, and to clarify for the benefit of VA-authorized vendors that VA retains this discretion as part of our duty to administer this program in a legally sufficient, fiscally responsible manner.”

This language, if finalized, will significantly restrict the ability of a veteran to see the VA contracted provider of their choice for prosthetic and orthotic care and must be addressed immediately.  AOPA, its Board of Directors, and its VA Committee are reviewing this proposed change in VA policy, which appears to be almost completely contrary to longstanding VA policy regarding veteran provider choice and the intent of the Veteran’s Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 which empowered Veterans to take a more active role in assuring their ability to receive convenient and timely care, whether through the VA directly or through the private sector.

Anticipating an AOPA position in opposition to this proposal, look for instructions as to how AOPA members can engage and mobilize patients on this important new proposed direction for prosthetic and orthotic care for Veterans.

The full text of the proposed rule may be viewed by clicking