Senate Will Pass Major Veterans Health Reform Legislation, Send to White House
‘Today, the Senate will take action to fulfill an important promise. Our nation’s all-volunteer armed forces consist of brave men and women who answer the call to serve often at personal risk. In gratitude for their selfless sacrifice, we promise them the accessible and quality care they have earned when they return home.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the VA MISSION Act of 2018:
“Today, the Senate will take action to fulfill an important promise. Our nation’s all-volunteer armed forces consist of brave men and women who answer the call to serve often at personal risk. In gratitude for their selfless sacrifice, we promise them the accessible and quality care they have earned when they return home.
“Veterans of all eras rely on this promise as they carry home the physical and mental reminders of their service. But all too often, the VA has fallen short of meeting their needs. Facilities that were too far away. Lines and waiting lists that were too long. Options for treatment that were too limited. The shortcomings of the federal bureaucracy were apparent. Veterans waiting months to see a physician under their VA benefits, let alone dying before receiving treatment, meant we’d clearly fallen short of our commitment to them.
“Congress had to act. So in 2014, a bipartisan coalition of 91 Senators and 420 members of the House took a critical first step by passing the Veterans Choice Act. For the past three years, the Veterans Choice Program has connected millions of America’s heroes with the care and resources they need, and so richly deserve. It removed arbitrary barriers that blocked veterans from convenient care. And it sent a clear message to those who have suffered because of a dysfunctional system: We have your back.
“But much more work remained. The Veterans Choice Program has allowed over 23,000 Kentucky veterans to seek care in their own communities last year. But some veterans are still left out. I recently heard from one Kentucky Navy veteran who lives 36 miles from the nearest VA provider. He served aboard the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Forrestal, and sustained a hand injury that still requires regular care. Under current law, because he lives 36 miles and not 41 miles from that facility, he can’t receive covered treatment from a nearby provider who’s right in his own community. He has to make the round trip several times a year to receive care.
“I know virtually all of my colleagues have heard stories just like these. They made it clear -- Congress’s work was far from finished. So Chairman Isakson and his Veterans’ Affairs Committee colleagues took the lead developing this new legislation, which borrows elements from 15 different Senate-introduced bills. The victories it contains are numerous.
“The VA MISSION Act removes those arbitrary time and distance requirements that limit eligibility for outside care. It replaces those one-size-fits-all policies with a conversation between veterans and their own doctors about what works best. This will empower more veterans to access the care they need -- when and where they need it.
“It also allows VA professionals to offer telemedicine and partner with community care providers, creating a more comprehensive network to keep veterans from falling through the cracks. It consolidates seven separate community care programs into one streamlined path. And it expands support for military families by broadening the VA’s comprehensive assistance for family caregivers to include veterans of all generations.
“These are just some of the reasons why this bipartisan, bicameral bill has earned the support of 38 veterans’ advocacy organizations. In a joint letter, they call it a, quote, ‘historic opportunity to improve the lives of veterans, their families and caregivers.’ President Trump agrees. So does a large bipartisan majority in the House. After we vote this afternoon, I hope we can say the Senate does, too. Let’s pass this worthy legislation and give our veterans more of the support they’ve earned.”
Related Issues: Veterans, Health Care