Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie recently wrote an Op-Ed piece for Fox News outlining the rollout of the VA MISSION Act (Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks) this coming June.
“On June 6, the MISSION Act will enable VA to consolidate the department’s community care efforts into a single, simple-to-use program that will empower veterans with the ability to choose the health care providers they trust,” Secretary Wilkie wrote.
The legislation, which was passed last year, will allow veterans receiving medical care benefits to have greater control over their care. The VA has long been criticized for making patients drive great distances to receive treatment at a VA facility or endure long wait times to get needed appointments. The MISSION Act is a step to cut down on the hurdles that impact patient care.
“Veterans will be eligible to get community care for a variety of reasons, including when VA can’t provide the treatment they need or when care outside our system is in the best medical interest of the patient,” Wilkie wrote. He went on to provide examples of when care from a community provider would be authorized, such as when the driving time to a VA appointment is greater than 30 minutes or the wait to be seen is 20 days or longer.
President Trump has celebrated the wins that his administration has made on behalf of the military and veterans—an increased military budget and VA reform among those most mentioned. The implementation of the VA MISSION Act is a step in making actual change for the health needs of our nation’s veterans.
It’s possible that Congress could step in before the June 6 rollout to keep the VA MISSION Act changes from taking place. The Military Times reported on a March 2019 letter that was sent to the VA by Democrats expressing concerns about how the changes would be funded and the overall impact that this new course of action would have on other VA priorities. Wilkie maintains that the Department is ready for the June 6 date and that the new changes would result in greater choice and improved care for veterans.