The House of Representatives passed a bill to automatically enroll eligible vets into the VA health care system.
The bill is known as the Ensuring Veterans’ Smooth Transition Act, and it passed with a vote of 265-163.
Currently veterans are required to proactively apply for health care benefits at the VA. But the new bill would make it so eligible veterans are enrolled without taking any action themselves.
For veterans who get automatically enrolled but do not wish to have coverage, the VA would have to provide a way for them to opt out.
The bill was never passed by the Senate however, and it was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Lawmakers hoped that the bill would make the transition from military to civilian life easier on vets.
The bill, which does not change who is eligible for VA health benefits, would apply retroactively to veterans discharged 90 days before it becomes law. The bill must still be voted on by the Senate before being sent to the president to be signed into law.
“We know that the months following transition out of the military can be very stressful and particularly risky for new veterans in terms of mental health,” House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., who sponsored the bill, said Thursday on the House floor. “This helps simplify the process and prevents veterans from potentially missing out on lifesaving care. It also keeps veterans from having to opt-in to VA care later and attempt to navigate a new bureaucracy on their own.”via Military.com
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill could affect upwards of 58,000 vets annually.
Over the next 5 years, they anticipate the bill to cost around $3.1 billion.
The White House has signaled that they support the “goal” of the bill, however they also stated there may be challenges trying to implement it.
A number of lawmakers who opposed the bill are concerned that the automatic enrollment could make previous issues within the VA worse, such as staffing shortages and long wait times.
This article originally appeared on USMilitary.org and was shared with permission.