U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today applauded the Senate for delivering final passage of the VA MISSION Act of 2018, legislation that includes several provisions cosponsored by Senators McCain and Jerry Moran (R-KS) that would transform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) into a 21st century health care system. The legislation will now be sent to the president's desk for signature.
"I applaud the Senate for passing legislation today that would dramatically expand and improve the Veterans Choice Program, and transform the VA into a 21st century integrated health care system," said Senator McCain. "In the wake of the scandal in care at VA hospitals in Phoenix and around the country, we promised our veterans that they would never again be forced to face unacceptable wait times for appointments or drive unreasonable distances to get the care they need. We delivered on that promise by providing veterans greater flexibility and choice in their care, and we are building on this progress with the VA MISSION Act of 2018.
"I am especially proud that the VA MISSION Act includes many of the reforms I cosponsored with Senator Jerry Moran that would expand health care choices for veterans and make it easier for them to access care in their communities through a consolidated community care network. Once this bill is signed, Congress must exercise strong oversight of the department as it begins to implement these changes so it can successfully carry out its mission to deliver timely and quality care to those who have served.
"Finally, I am deeply humbled that my colleagues have designated this legislation in my name, along with my friend and comrade, Congressman Sam Johnson, and World War II veteran, the late Senator Daniel Akaka. We share this honor with all of the veterans who came before us and all who proudly served and are still serving around the world. As we mark Memorial Day this weekend, I can think of no better way to demonstrate our gratitude to the brave men and women who have sacrificed in uniform than to strengthen and improve the care they so richly deserve."
Senator McCain has been fighting to provide greater health care choices for veterans throughout his career. He first proposed veterans choice when he ran for president in 2008 and championed passage of the Veterans Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act in 2014, which for the first time enabled veterans who live far from a VA health care facility or who can't get a timely appointment to visit a provider in their communities. Since then, Senator McCain has worked to strengthen and improve the Veterans Choice Program and expand access to care for all veterans.
Many of the provisions included in the VA MISSION Act were introduced by Senators McCain and Moran in the Veterans Community Care and Access Act of 2017. These provisions can be found here and summaries of these provisions are below:
Section 101: Establishing Veterans Choice & Community Care Program
Establishes the Veterans Community Care Program, which will consolidate all community care authorities into a single cohesive program to deliver hospital care, medical services and extended care services to veterans in their communities.
Section 104: Access Standards and Standards for Quality
Implements data-driven access standards to inform veterans about their eligibility for community care, and improves veterans' ability to compare care at the VA and other federal facilities with care at community hospitals.
Section 106: Strategy for High-Performing Integrated Health Care Network
Requires the VA to conduct market assessments that identify veteran demand for health care and capacity to deliver care at the VA or in the community. This provision also requires the VA to develop and implement a reoccurring strategic plan to create a high-performing integrated health care network at the VA.
Section 108: Protecting Veterans from Unsafe & Unfit Providers
Protects veterans seeking care in the community from being treated by a provider who was fired, suspended, or had his or her license revoked by the VA or violated the requirements of his or her medical license.
Section 111: Prompt Payment to Providers
Establishes and requires publication of regulations for a prompt payment process that will obligate the VA to pay for, or deny payment for, community providers' services within a set timeframe after receipt of a claim.
Section 131: Ensuring Safe Opioid Prescribing
Ensures that contracted providers review evidence-based guidelines and make certain the VA shares with community care providers the relevant medical history of veteran patients to guide the prescription of opioids through the community care program. It will also make the VA responsible for coordinating the prescription of opioids.
Section 132: Improving Information Sharing With Community Providers
Clarifies that the VA can share records with non-department providers for the purpose of delivering care and enhancing the VA's ability to recover funds from other responsible third parties.