The VA MISSION Act was signed into law on June 6, 2018. After years of calling for reform, this was a monumental day for veterans who use the Department of Veterans Affairs for health care. Under the VA MISSION Act, the Veterans Health Administration will undergo structural changes that give veterans greater access to the health care they earned.
But the June 6 bill signing was just the beginning of a long journey for the VA and Congress. The real work is just beginning as the VA figures out how to implement the MISSION Act.
Fully implementing this new law is going to take years. Among other things, the VA has to integrate community care programs, update payment systems and conduct a review of the department’s assets and infrastructure. These major changes to VA structure are scheduled over the next several years with progress review dates for accountability.
The first of those major review dates is just 30 days from today.
On Oct. 4, the VA must report to Congress the progress it has made toward implementing key parts of the MISSION Act – establishing the new Veterans Community Care Program and access and quality standards.
Currently, the VA has seven different community care programs, the major one being the Veterans Choice Program. These programs dictate all aspects of care in the community, establishing which veterans can go to which doctors at what time and place. The programs are confusing and use arbitrary eligibility standards.
The MISSION Act will fix community care by combining the programs and establishing new criteria for community care eligibility. But first the VA has to show Congress they have a plan for creating new access and quality standards and for implementing the new Veterans Community Care Program.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on the VA over the next 30 days as the first progress report deadline draws near. For the VA MISSION Act to be implemented successfully, the VA must take deadlines seriously and implement sections of the law on schedule.