PROMISE KEPT: Trump Signs VETERANS ACT to Expand Healthcare

Henrietta Strickland
June 9, 2018

It empowers veterans and provides veterans with decision-making power to get care that works for them, on their schedules, near their homes, and I'm proud to have my provisions included in the legislation. More importantly, the veterans who will place their lives in the hands of medical providers and healthcare networks under the VA Mission Act need to see real evidence that the nation they defended truly and meaningfully thanks them for their service. Of critical importance to PVA, the MISSION Act will finally expand the VA Comprehensive Family Caregiver Program to those veterans injured prior to September 11, 2001. The White House is insisting that added costs of the newly expanded private care program be paid for by cutting spending elsewhere at the VA, something that major veterans groups generally oppose. He warned that failing to provide new funding "would jeopardize the health care and well-being of our veterans".

The act establishes standards for veterans to consult with the private sector for "timely and effective care".

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican, is leading the group that seeks a separate spending stream to fund the VA Mission Act.

The measure builds on legislation passed in 2014 in response to a wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments. "Veterans are now empowered to have more control over their health care and more quality choices within their own communities". A 2017 Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation found that the Choice Program still yielded long wait times for patients, partly because of the complex process by which patients must be referred to non-VA providers. "By increasing transparency in opioid prescribing, we can identify abuse patterns and ensure our veterans are getting the best possible care".

But the shift to greater outsourcing - arguably the top White House priority for veterans - has been controversial. There is no reliable estimate and little research to determine how much taxpayers pay for a private medical appointment versus one inside VA's system of 1,300 clinics and hospitals.

"It is, for me, a huge and significant act in that it will give veterans additional access to medical assistance", Wright told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

He added, "You shouldn't have to ask Congress every year for money to take care of veterans".

The legislation would create a presidentially appointed commission to review the closure of underperforming VA facilities. Lisa Rein covers federal agencies and the management of government in the Trump adminstration.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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