In June of this year, President Trump signed the VA Mission Act into law. This law was meant to give veterans and military personnel greater access to healthcare outside of the VA, in addition to streamlining the process and combining seven different programs, including the Choice Act into one, the VA Mission act also:
- Moves the VA health care program from mandatory funding to discretionary funding,
- Creates a new process for reviewing VA’s assets and disposing of under-utilized, outdated, or vacant facilities,
- Creates an education program for veterans about their health care options and a training program for VA employees and contractors to better understand how to administer non-VA health programs,
- Establishes a scholarship program and a specialty education loan repayment program to better recruit VA doctors, dentists, and other health professionals, and
- Requires VA make information public about its vacancies, separation actions, new hires and other personnel actions.
But What Needs to Happen?
However, there are now major concerns in Congress that the VA won’t meet its deadlines to streamline the seven current, disparate community care programs into one. In addition to streamlining these care programs, the VA also needs to:
- Award contracts for third-party administrators to serve three of four U.S. regions by the end of February.
- Award another contract for the fourth region in March.
- Award contracts to third-party administrators and update new IT systems to comply with the new choice program.
With the constant upheaval in turn-over rates within the current administration, many worry that the VA will not be ready for this year’s June deadline.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, who appeared before a joint hearing of both the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees last week, insisted MISSION implementation was on firm footing. The VA Committee insists that they have been meeting weekly and the fourth region will be staffed by the end of March.
Time will tell, as this year draws to a close, not only what changes will be taking place in the new year, but how timely they will be implemented for the June deadline.
How do you feel the current administration is not just advocating for, but implementing these changes?