In 2014, when committee oversight and subsequent media reports uncovered that veterans around the country were facing unacceptable wait times for VA care, Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act (P.L. 113-146), which established the Choice Program. The Choice Program allowed veterans who meet certain qualifications to seek care from health care providers in the community. Since fiscal year 2014, community care appointments have increased by 61% overall, and in FY 2016 alone, 30% of all VA appointments were held in the community rather than in VA medical facilities.
Though VA has been collaborating with community providers to treat veterans since 1945, the recent increase in veteran demand for community care highlighted serious issues and inefficiencies within the VA’s community care system, such as VA using six different methods to refer veteran patients to community providers. Those six different methods often conflict with one another, creating confusion for veterans, community providers and VA employees alike. That’s why during the 115th Congress the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, led by Chairman Roe, worked to pass bipartisan legislation to streamline VA’s community care programs and improve VA’s internal capacity to care for veteran patients. The John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act, passed by a vote of 347-70 in the House and 92-5 in the Senate. It had the support of more than 40 veterans groups and was singed into law by President Trump on June 6, 2018.
The community care program required the VA MISSION Act launches on June 6, 2019 and will benefit veterans by providing:
- A new, streamlined community care program that gives veterans greater choice and control over their healthcare decisions
- Access to urgent and walk-in care
- Easier scheduling and timelier reimbursements for community providers