The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs April 10 held a hearing titled “VA MISSION Act: Implementing the Veterans Community Care Program.” The John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018 (VA MISSION Act, P.L. 115-182) [see Washington Highlights, May 4, 2018] was signed into law June 6, 2018, and mandated a one-year implementation window for the new community care network (CCN).
The first panel of witnesses represented the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including Executive in Charge of the Veterans Health Administration Richard Stone, MD. The second panel of witnesses represented stakeholders, including the Disabled American Veterans and Government Accountability Office, who highlighted concerns that VA will not be prepared to implement the new CCN by the June 6 deadline.
In his opening statement, Committee Chair Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) noted that the committee wants the VA to succeed. “We want the VA to … fundamentally change the service they deliver for the better, reliability for the better, participation for the better, so timely care to a veteran is the primary thing we’re providing and we provide a mechanism to do that as efficiently as possible.”
Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) shared his perspective that the writing of the MISSION Act “was the result of compromise [and] sought to consolidate VA’s multiple community care programs into one streamlined program that made sense for veterans, community providers and taxpayers.” He shared concerns about outsourcing of VA care, as well as an assessment of VA’s preparedness to launch the new CCN by the legislated start date of June 6, 2019.
Sen. Isakson inquired about VA’s preparedness for the new CCN to launch on June 6, to which Stone replied, “Are we going to get it all right? No. Are we going to deliver care on June 6th? Yes. The question is are we going to be as efficient as we should be? Are there going to be wait times that will grow because of this?”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) highlighted the importance of VA fully implementing the MISSION Act’s hiring incentives to help fill health care vacancies at VA, including loan repayment and scholarship opportunities. Stone noted that VA has initiated outreach to affiliates regarding the new hiring authorities.
The AAMC submitted comments on proposed rules that will contribute to implementation of the MISSION Act, specifically regarding urgent care access, access standards, and eligibility requirements [see Washington Highlights, March 8, March 29].