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How will the VA MISSION Act work for veterans?

Hank Hayes • Jun 8, 2018 at 10:21 AM

The VA MISSION Act will be “transformational” for veterans care if implemented the right way, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe said in a Thursday conference call with reporters.

If it doesn’t go well, Roe said it will only be a piece of paper.

President Donald Trump signed the bill on Wednesday with Roe, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, in attendance.

The bill requires the Veterans Administration to coordinate veterans care and requires veterans to get access to community care if the VA does not offer the care or services the veteran requires.

The bill also includes funding for the Choice Program, which gives veterans access to health care outside the VA, until the new program authorized under the VA MISSION Act is put in place.

How did the bill get started?

Congress began considering new ways to get veterans care after it was reported about four years ago that hundreds of veterans died waiting to get health care at a Phoenix, Arizona, VA facility.

“We found there were secret lists of veterans kept on a piece of paper … then they would be put in the electronic health record, so it looked like they were getting timely care, but they were not,” Roe, R-Tenn., noted. “People were gaming the system.”

The Choice Program was passed by Congress afterward to provide veterans a network of physicians outside the VA.

“Now, about 36 percent of all veteran health care is provided outside the VA,” said Roe, who added Congress put more money into the program until a more comprehensive solution could be found.

What else is in the VA Mission Act?

Roe started on the bill in January 2017 after he was sworn in as chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

The bill includes more than $5 billion in funding for the Choice Program until it can sunset. There is also a provision to give financial incentives to caregivers and providers to work for the VA. The bill also has a “prompt pay” measure to make sure outside providers are paid.

Another section of the bill calls for a VA Asset and Infrastructure Committee to be established, as well as a provision to allow the VA to share veterans’ medical records with outside entities and fund pilot programs to help innovation within the system.

The bill would also give caregivers, like a spouse, a stipend for taking care of veterans at home. “Staying at home is less expensive than institutionalized care,” Roe stressed.

What’s going to happen if outside providers don’t want to see VA patients because they haven’t been paid?

“We’ve got to rebuild that trust with the medical community,” Roe insisted. “I hope the VA doesn’t embarrass me. I’m going to be the one out front around the country asking these doctors to come back into the VA system and help our veterans.”

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