The American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA) has expressed concern about a proposed rule published by the U.S. 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.”
AOPA is troubled by a provision on page 29 that 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.”
According to AOPA, if the language is finalized, it will restrict the ability of a veteran to see the VA-contracted provider of his or her choice for O&P care. AOPA, its board of directors, and its VA committee are reviewing the proposed change, which appears to contradict the longstanding VA policy regarding veteran provider choice and the intent of the Veteran’s Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which empowers veterans to take an active role in assuring their ability to receive convenient and timely care through the VA directly or through the private sector. The 48-page proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on October 16.