After years of attempts, last year there was actually a bill that passed that was a major reform of veterans’ health care. The VA Mission Act was meant to provide more flexibility and improve access for veterans in a number of areas.

Rep. Buddy Carter

It allows veterans, that qualify, who may wish to seek care through private doctors have this paid for by the VA. It increases the availability of in-home visits, access to walk-in VA care and reforms prescription drug procedures. Another item is that it allows the VA to use telemedicine to deliver healthcare across state lines and into veterans’ homes. One slight catch though, the law included an error that prohibited trainees from using the system.

“During a meeting with the VA Hospital in Charleston, I learned about this problem with the VA MISSION Act,” said U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA-01). “The telemedicine section of the bill was designed to allow VA covered practitioners to provide telehealth services across state lines to increase veteran access to VA services. However, unfortunately, the legislation missed a large population of health care providers. This meant that only doctors could provide services through telehealth, not students, interns, residents or fellows. This is a major problem especially for interns, residents and fellows who have graduated medical school and are training to become full time doctors because they are not able to get the necessary experience in telehealth at the VA until the time they become fully licensed.”

Not to mention that by excluding these groups, accessibility was severely limited. Carter’s office also points out that by excluding trainees, the first time that these individuals use the systems is when they are licensed doctors, creating an unnecessary delay in training and the potential for more mistakes.

“I introduced this legislation today to improve telehealth training at VA health centers and increase access to this important care by increasing the number of providers,” said Carter. “Our veterans served our nation and deserve access to the best possible care when they return home. Increasing the use of telehealth at VA health centers is critical to ensure veterans are able to receive the care they need no matter where they live.”

Carter’s bill would seem to have a high likelihood of passage but anything involving the VA will get a lot of scrutiny and may therefore be a slow mover.

The VA MISSION Act actually went into effect just last week so this problem may not be making much waves now but it has the potential to start making news if veterans find telemedicine access is limited. The number of other reforms in the Act will be closely watched to make sure they improving veterans healthcare which has been a long-term complaint of Washington.

To learn more about the Act and if you are, or know, a veteran interested in finding out whether they qualify for some of the new reforms, see here: https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/61286/va-launches-new-health-care-options-mission-act/

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