The Veterans Community Care Program, established by the landmark VA MISSION Act, was officially implemented last week and is expected to remove bureaucratic obstacles to care in the community and ensure veterans receive efficient, timely, and quality care, is being implemented.
Georgia’s U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) — chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs — authored the legislation that was signed into law in 2018.
“This legislation fundamentally changes VA health care for the better so timely care to a veteran is the primary focus. I’m committed to working with the VA in the days and months ahead to ensure it is a success,” said Isakson (R-GA)
The VA MISSION Act established new eligibility criteria for veterans to receive care in the community and instructed the secretary of the VA to determine access standards for veterans seeking care within the VA. Under this new plan, if the VA is unable to meet certain wait-time and drive-time standards or if veterans meet other eligibility criteria, they are given the option to receive care in the community.
In addition, the legislation will help improve existing VA health care and services by removing barriers for VA healthcare professionals to practice telemedicine, strengthening processes for opioid prescribing by VA and community care providers, and eliminating impediments to hiring and retention of VA healthcare professionals.
According to officials, Veterans Affairs staff has spent months training employees in Georgia and across the country about the new eligibility requirements associated with the Veterans Community Care Program. The VA has also worked to educate veterans about their enhanced options under the VA MISSION Act with mailings and a new website that details all health care options available for veterans through the VA. According to the website, “Eligible Veterans can use VA health care services nationwide, including through mobile health clinics that serve rural areas and via telehealth (care through a phone or computer).”
The John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act, called the VA MISSION Act for short, includes some of the most significant reforms proposed to-date to improve the VA’s current healthcare delivery system and help provide veterans with more choice and fewer barriers to care. The VA MISSION Act builds on legislation previously introduced by Isakson to consolidate and improve VA community care programs, which allows veterans to receive healthcare services provided by private hospitals and doctors.
The legislation also includes provisions to improve VA’s ability to hire high-quality healthcare professionals, expand VA caregiver benefits to veterans of all eras and establish a process to evaluate and reform VA’s existing facilities to best serve veterans.
“We set out in the VA MISSION Act to make it easier for veterans to get the care they need in a timely manner,” said Isakson. “Everyone wants this to be a success, and we’re going to make sure the VA has all of the tools and resources it needs to provide quality care to our veterans.”