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May 23, 2018

Barrasso Votes to Improve Veterans Health Care

Bipartisan VA MISSION Act is headed to president’s desk to be signed into law

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) issued the following statement after voting in favor of bipartisan legislation to improve access to health care for our nation’s veterans. The Senate passed the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act today by a vote of 92 to 5.

More than 30 national veterans’ groups and military advocacy organizations that represent veterans – including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars – have endorsed the bill.

“Our veterans deserve the very best care from a grateful nation,” said Barrasso. “The VA Mission Act will reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and enable our veterans to get the care they need closer to home.

“This bipartisan bill will cut down on wait times and allow the VA to hire new health care professionals. It also eliminates distance requirements, a critically important factor in rural states like Wyoming. President Trump has said he will sign this much-needed bill into law before Memorial Day. This is a fitting tribute to our veterans.”

The VA MISSION Act was the result of a bipartisan effort to improve health care for veterans. Most importantly, the legislation consolidates and streamlines how the VA pays for medical care in local communities. This is important for veterans living in rural areas, who may not live near a VA medical facility.

In addition, the legislation makes important changes regarding the VA utilization of telemedicine, ensures that health care providers receive reimbursement in a timely manner, and provides the VA flexibility when contracting with local providers. It also puts in place a process to make sure that community providers and the VA work together to prescribe opioid medications in a safe manner.

The VA MISSION Act specifically:

Streamlines VA’s Community Care Programs

• Consolidates seven VA community care programs into one streamlined program.
• Removes arbitrary 30-day/40-mile barriers to veterans’ care in the community.
• Authorizes access to walk-in community clinics for enrolled veterans who have previously used VA health care services in the past two years.
• Removes bureaucratic red tape by authorizing local provider agreements to meet veterans’ needs for care in the community.
• Strengthens opioid prescription guidelines for non-VA providers.

Improves VA Healthcare Delivery

• Removes barriers for VA health care professionals to practice telemedicine.
• Provides additional resources for hiring and retention of VA health care professionals.
• Includes funding for the Choice Program that is expected to last until the new program authorized under the bill is implemented.
• Allows the VA to modernize assets and infrastructure.

Expands Caregivers Program

• Expands eligibility for VA’s Caregiver Program to veterans of all generations.
• Requires VA to implement an information technology system to better support, assess and monitor the program.