VA reform bill heads to Trump’s desk
By Alex Paton
A bill is headed to President Trump’s desk that will improve veterans’ health care by removing barriers that keep veterans from receiving care closer to home.
U.S. Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker voted with the Senate to give final approval to the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act or “VA MISSION Act”. The bill passed 92-5.
President Trump has indicated his support for the bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives last week.
“Many of Mississippi’s veterans and their families know the hardship associated with driving long distances to access VA healthcare benefits,” Hyde-Smith said. “This legislation offers relief to those veterans by extending access to care closer to home and expanding eligibility for VA caregiver benefits. It is an honor to support strong legislation to make it easier for our veterans to receive the care promised to them by a grateful nation.”
The VA MISSION Act would consolidate seven programs into a single, streamlined Veterans Community Care Program to provide veterans with access to health care and services in their own communities. It would eliminate the arbitrary “30-day/40-mile” rule, which only allows veterans to seek care outside the VA if it has taken 30 or more days for an appointment or if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility.
It would expand admission to the VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to all generations of veterans seriously injured in the line of duty. Under current law, only veterans injured on or after Sept. 11, 2001, qualify for these benefits. This provision would open eligibility to veterans injured during World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf Wars.
The bill would also remove barriers for VA healthcare professionals to practice telemedicine, strengthen processes for opioid prescribing by VA and community care providers, and eliminate impediments to hiring and retention of VA health care professionals.