A quiet advocate for veterans celebrates a major VA reform
09 June, 2018, 12:54 | Author: Sherman Richardson
This week, President Donald Trumpsigned the "John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Networks Act" (VA MISSION Act) into law and a freshman congressman from North Florida's fingerprints are all over it.
"In every generation there have been heroes like them, patriots who answer the call to serve, who do whatever it takes, wherever and whenever we need them to defend America", the President said.
The $51 billion measure builds on legislation passed in 2014 in response to a scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments.
He said for veterans who have been standing "in line for weeks and weeks" seeking care at VA, "now they can go see a doctor".
"On the anniversary of D-Day, we're reminded of the sacrifices of our courageous veterans and that we owe our service members a debt that can never be repaid".
White House officials are circulating a memo on Capitol Hill this week that slams the senators' proposal as "anathema to responsible spending" and that predicts it would lead to ballooning costs and "virtually unlimited increases" in veterans' spending on private health care.
"We do our veterans no favors by promising care without backing it up with resources", said Sen.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., cautioned that the lack of new money for the legislation sets up "another VA crisis and billions in budget cuts to critical veteran initiatives down the road". It will allow veterans to receive services from private providers, creates a stipend program for caregivers of disabled veterans from any conflict, puts a process in motion to streamline the VA itself and encourages doctor and other medical professionals to join the VA system.
Additionally, the VA Mission Act aims to ensure that veterans have access to care from non-VA providers, including coverage of urgent care. It is a plan that gives veterans access to healthcare in the private sector.
Many veterans have moved from the Northeast to other parts of the country.
Bergman sits on the VA Committee and Chairs the VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. "This is a truly meaningful victory for our nation's veterans, who will benefit from more choice and fewer barriers to care". 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.
"Without subjecting the program to any budgetary constraint, there is no incentive to continue to serve veterans with innovative, streamlined, and efficient quality of care", according to the memo obtained by The Associated Press. That overhaul will take at least 10 years to be complete.
That act also made it easier for whistleblowers to step forward. They warned of continuing problems of long waits under a newly expanded Choice program until the VA is able to more easily exchange veterans' medical records with outside physicians; the VA has said achieving that could take years.
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