WASHINGTON, D.C. - Last week, Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger, joined by Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX), introduced the Innovative Cognitive Care for Veterans Act. This legislation will direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to implement a pilot program that increases access to innovative cognitive care in partnership with private organizations.
With recent studies forecasting increases in cognitive impairments among veterans in the coming decade, it is crucial that the VA broadens the scope of their services. Through this pilot program, veterans will have access to innovative treatment models under the care of a provider and in a comfortable setting of their choice.
"As a representative of a rural district that is home to many veterans, I'm committed to finding new and resourceful ways to ensure our nation's heroes receive the quality care they deserve, when and where they need it," said Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger. "My bill, the Innovative Cognitive Care for Veterans Act, will address the pressing needs of our veterans by allowing them access to premier alternative, innovative care models in a pleasant setting. This legislation marks a leap forward in the VA providing expanded choices for those who made sacrifices for our freedoms."
"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 options for veterans suffering from cognitive impairment under the VA's Community Care Program."
The Innovative Cognitive Care Act has broad support amongst veterans' advocacy groups, including the the Wounded Warrior Project, National Association of Veterans' Research and Education Foundations, and American Legion.
“Over 35% of Wounded Warrior Project alumni report experiencing traumatic brain injury as a result of serving in the military. Many of them experience significant impacts on their physical and mental health, including serious cognitive impairments,” said Wounded Warrior Project Vice President for Government and Community Relations Jose Ramos. “The Innovative Cognitive Care for Veterans Act establishes a pilot program for veterans with these cognitive impairments to receive treatment through telehealth and other technologies and could bring groundbreaking improvements to how we address and treat traumatic brain injury. We want to thank Congresswoman Harshbarger for her commitment to improving the lives of veterans with this important legislation.”
“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," said National Association of Veterans' Research and Education Foundations Chief Executive Officer Hawk Tran. "The Innovative Cognitive Care for Veterans Act has potential to be a crucial step forward and we fully support its purpose and mission.”
- 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 report from 2020 estimates that the amount the VA will spend for long-term care is projected to double by 2037.
- 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 our government to do more for Veterans with respect to cognitive care.
Full text of the bill can be found here.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://harshbarger.house.gov/media/press-releases/rep-harshbarger-introduces-innovative-cognitive-care-veterans-act