On April 10, 2014, a story broke in the Arizona Republic that would ripple across the country.
The public found out that veterans at the Phoenix Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center had been waiting weeks or months for medical appointments. Not only that, but hundreds of veterans were found on secret wait lists, designed to hide how long the wait times truly were.
In the months that followed, Congress passed a law attempting to fix one of the VA’s major problems – access to timely health care. The Choice Act created the Veterans Choice Program, which aimed to allow veterans the option to choose non-VA medical providers.
The Veterans Choice Program was a good idea but flawed from the beginning.
Last year, the VA MISSION Act was signed into law to replace and improve on the choice program. The VA MISSION Act creates a Community Care Program to streamline access to non-VA care and empower the VA to better provide for veterans.
The VA and Congress are working through new standards that will guide access to the Community Care Program and give more veterans more choice over their medical care.
This week, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie will testify before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to discuss what those new access standards will look like and how they’ll help veterans all over the country.
We’ve come a long way since the Phoenix VA scandal broke. VA employees are held more accountable and veterans’ health care has been spotlighted like never before. But there’s still much work to do.
Veterans have waited long enough for access to timely, quality care. Honor their service and sacrifice by telling your lawmakers that veterans deserve more choice!