The National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics announced it “strongly opposes” a proposed rule published in October by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which the organization says will threaten the policy that allows veterans to choose their own O&P practitioner.
In a YouTube address to members, Peter Thomas, JD, special counsel for the NAAOP, said the rule would designate the VA as the “sole” authority in choosing which O&P practitioner provides services to each veteran. According to Thomas, this would “fundamentally change the right that veterans have had for 5 decades, to choose the O&P practitioners who best meets their needs, whether that practitioners is a VA employee or a private provider with the VA.”
“This is a big issue, and one that the NAAOP is strongly opposed to, especially in light of the Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights, the legislation that is in the House to ultimately ensure that veterans have a right to choose their practitioner,” Thomas said in the YouTube address.
The Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights (HR-2322) was introduced by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.). According to Thomas, the NAAOP is working with Walberg to advance the bill or, alternatively, influence the pending VA CHOICE 2.0 legislation, which would make permanent the VA CHOICE program enacted in 2014 and expand veterans’ choice of private health care providers.
In addition, the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) is calling on its members to “take action now” to help stop the VA proposed rule.
“This language, if finalized, is in direct conflict with the current VA policy as well as the Veteran’s Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, and will significantly restrict the ability of a veteran to see the VA-contracted provider of their choice for prosthetic and orthotic care,” according to the AOPA press release.
The organization is encouraging members to visit www.aopavotes.org and complete an online form to have a customized letter sent on their behalf to the VA, expressing concern about the proposed rule.
The proposed rule, published on Oct. 16 in the Federal Register, 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 to eligible veterans,” according to an AOPA press release.
The specific language states: “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.”