WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 23, 2019)—The House of Representatives Veterans Affairs committee held a hearing on September 11 on H.R. 1527, the Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act, a bill to expand access to homecare for veterans and help keep them out of institutional settings.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA), would expand access to the Medical Foster Home (MFH) program within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) MFH program provides a non-institutional long-term care alternative for eligible veterans, keeping them out of nursing homes, if that is their preference. Currently, the VA provides care team support to MFHs, but does not have the authority to pay for the cost of the MFHs. As a result, veterans must use personal or other funding sources to stay out of nursing homes. This legislation would authorize VA, during a three-year period, to place into MFHs that meet VA standards up to 900 veterans for whom VA is currently required to provide nursing home care.

A veteran that elects for a MFH setting would agree to accept home health services as provided by the VA. For purposes of this legislation, the bill defines a medical foster home as “a home designed to provide non-institutional long-term, supportive care for veterans who are unable to live independently and prefer a family setting.”

“As it stands,[the] VA is not authorized to pay for the cost of MFHs, which results in veterans using their personal funds or other insurance if they choose to live in a MFH,” says Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), ranking member of the committee. “This legislation would enable the VA to pay for a MFH, thus allowing veterans to have the option to live in a more family-like setting. This is an important piece of legislation.”

Apart from Rep. Higgins, the bill was co-sponsored by Reps. Gonzalez-Colon (R-Puerto Rico), Radewagen (R-American Samoa), Steube (R-FL), Barr (R-KY), and Correa (D-CA). “Allowing veterans to exercise greater flexibility over their benefits ensures that their individual needs are best met,” says Rep. Higgins. “My legislation offers a cost-saving alternative to nursing home care, while providing veterans with more personal, quality health services. This is reflective of our overall effort to provide veterans with greater choice and freedom over their benefits. The Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act represents another step toward modernizing and streamlining the VA so that we can uphold our commitment to America’s veterans.”

The National Association for Home Care &Hospice supports this effort.