Implementing the VA MISSION Act properly is the key to its success. The law restructures community care programs, establishes new access standards for non-VA care, expands the Caregiver Program, and requires the VA to review its procedures and assets in order to better serve veterans.
June 6, 2019 is “D-Day” for the VA. On that date, the VA MISSION Act’s new community care program must be rolled out to qualified veterans. Congress and the Trump administration should oppose any efforts to restrict or limit the ability of veterans to utilize the new community program and keep a watchful eye on the VA to ensure the law is properly carried out so veterans can get the care they deserve.
In 2014, it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of veterans were waiting weeks, even months, for medical appointments at Department of Veterans Affairs health facilities. Additionally, VA employees across the country placed many veterans on secret waitlists to hide the department’s extensive wait times and some of those veterans even died while waiting to see a doctor.
Four years later, action was finally taken to ensure veterans can get access to timely care – the VA MISSION Act was signed into law. This milestone legislation gives veterans more choice over where they access their medical care, whether at a VA facility or from a provider in their community. Major provisions of the law include:
CARE FOR VETERANS The VA MISSION Act combines multiple community care programs into one, less-confusing program. The law also requires the VA to establish new quality and access standards for non-VA care. These measures will simplify access to community care so veterans aren’t stuck in endless bureaucracy.
EXPANDED CAREGIVER PROGRAM The VA MISSION Act will phase-in access to the VA caregivers program to all veterans who have incurred or aggravated serious injuries while serving in the active duty military, not just those serving since September 11, 2001.
MANAGEMENT OF THE VA The VA MISSION Act requires that the VA review the current distribution and utilization of its medical center and clinics to determine whether or not they are properly positioned and structured to serve the veteran population. This will allow the VA to put its assets and resources in the locations that will benefit veterans most.
FACT: The VA MISSION Act does NOT privatize the VA health care system. The VA MISSION Act works to better integrate the VA with community health care providers, fix structural issues with the VA’s outside care programs, and ultimately improve access to care while expanding the health care options available to veterans through the VA, all while maintaining the VA’s vital heath care infrastructure for those veterans who choose to receive care within the VA.
The VA health care system should remain a center of excellence for veterans, but the MISSION Act should be implemented in a way that puts the veteran first rather than the VA bureaucracy. If a veteran opts to receive care in their local community or at a VA facility, that should be their choice, not the VA’s.
FACT: Giving veterans more access to community care is only cost prohibitive if the VA doesn’t implement commonsense cost-mitigation strategies and measures. Delivering quality health care to our nation’s veterans is at the heart of the VA’s mission. Instead of limiting choice for our nation’s veterans under the pretense of fiscal restraint, the VA and lawmakers can implement significant cost mitigation measures and institute substantive reforms to improve the VA system while ensuring veterans can get the care and benefits they have earned and deserve.
FACT: The VA MISSION Act access standards developed by the VA are similar to those successfully used in the military’s successful TRICARE program – which has a government-run component and a private sector component. Veterans still keep the VA as a viable option while allowing more veterans to access care in the community.
The VA MISSION Act was ultimately developed to improve access to care while expanding the health care options available. Opponents know, however, that giving veterans more choices means the VA’s grip on the reins of veterans’ health care will loosen, as resources begin to follow the veteran, not prop up the bureaucracy. What’s important, though, is not where the resources go, but that they go to deliver the best care to the veterans who need it.
It’s not about undermining or destroying the VA. Rather, it is about the veteran. It’s about making the VA one of the options for veterans seeking quality care, not the only option. It is important to note, under the law and these draft standards, veterans will still have the option to stay in the VA health care system, and it should be a quality option for them.
March 3, 2019 – Deadline for the VA to submit to Congress a report detailing the access and quality standards for the new community care program.
June 6, 2019 – Deadline to begin delivering care through the Veteran Community Care Program. Additionally, the necessary regulations to provide guidance on access to walk-in care are due and the VA must submit reports to Congress on how much the VA is paying out in overdue claims and share their strategic plan.
October 1, 2019 – Deadline to implement an IT system to support the Caregivers Program.
December 6, 2019 – Deadline to submit Innovation Center pilot program waiver requests for congressional approval. Deadline for the VA to submit a report on the types and frequency of care sought through community providers.
These new access standards put power into the hands of veterans, right where it belongs. We need you to show your support for more health care options for veterans. Make a public comment in support of these new access standards and more options for veterans.
Make your voice heard! Let Washington know you support giving veterans more health care options!