June 04, 2019

Manchin, Rounds Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Extend Mission Act Deadline

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mike Rounds (R-SD), last week introduced the Veterans Affairs Saving Network Appointments From Upheaval Act, otherwise known as theVA SNAFU Act”, which would delay the implementation of new access standards for non-VA healthcare providers. 

On June 6th, as directed by the VA MISSION Act of 2018, millions of Veterans will be forced to navigate new access standards for non-VA healthcare providers. Senators Manchin and Rounds are concerned that the VA has not taken enough time to properly plan and prepare its staff, systems, and community networks for the implementation of the proposed access standards. Specifically, the market assessments of community care providers which were designed to ensure that the system was ready for the transition are only now just getting underway. The Senators are concerned the VA may not be able to certify and tell Veterans whether community providers across the country will provide as-good or better care than VA facilities. For example, under the new rules, the VA will implement a drive-time standard which it has never done before and could result in significant confusion and frustration for both VA front line staff and Veterans. This bill extends the implementation date for the new non-VA healthcare access standards until after all market assessments are completed.  

“Our Veterans deserve quality, affordable, and accessible healthcare, but the VA readiness to implement the MISSION Act access standards ensure just the opposite. VA Secretary Wilkie has testified that the MISSION Act could be the driver of ‘transformation not seen since WWII’ when General Omar Bradley headed the Veterans Administration. However, adopting new access standards prematurely could result in a significant setback in Veterans’ confidence in the VA, much like the rushed implementation of the Choice Act. We should be learning from past mistakes, not repeating them,” said Senator Manchin. “General George S. Patton, once said ‘A pint of sweat is worth a gallon of blood’. In other words, preparation, planning, and testing saves lives, and this bill gives the VA more time to do just that. When we can’t inform Veterans of the quality of community care, Veterans from rural states like West Virginia will be harmed the most. I hope that my colleagues will join me in passing this legislation to support our Veterans by ensuring their access to quality healthcare.”

“The men and women who wore the uniform of the United States have earned the benefits they were promised. Our legislation seeks to make sure the transition from the Veterans Choice Program to the Veterans Community Care Program, as outlined in the VA MISSION Act, does not adversely impact veterans. The VA must continue to provide care and services to eligible veterans throughout the transition period. Our bill also automatically enrolls veterans exposed to toxic airborne chemicals or stationed near open burn pits into the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless they choose to opt out. This will make it easier for those veterans to receive adequate care and updates pertinent to them in a timely manner. Our nation’s veterans served our country and we owe it to them to make sure they are properly taken care of,” said Senator Rounds.