Manchin Votes to Pass BIll to Expand Caregiver Program and Fix Veteran Care
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted to pass the VA MISSION Act, legislation that will fix non-VA care and expand the Caregivers program to Veterans of all eras. Senator Manchin has personally championed expanding caregiver benefits to veterans of all eras including family caregivers of veterans injured during World War II, the Korean, Vietnam and 1990-1991 Gulf War. Yesterday, Senator Manchin attempted to remove the AIR Act from the bill, legislation that could be harmful to West Virginia Veterans and VA facilities. To watch Senator Manchin’s remarks on the Senate Floor yesterday in opposition to the AIR Act, click here.
“I have spent my career fighting to make sure Veterans can get the care they have earned as soon as they need it. Even though this bill still had that AIR Act included, I voted to pass the VA MISSION Act because it improves VA’s community care program, makes it easier for VA to hire quality healthcare professionals, and it expands the Caregiver Program to veterans of all eras. But that doesn’t mean I like everything in this bill. Yesterday, I tried to remove the AIR Act from the bill in order to protect West Virginia Veteran care and prevent VA facilities in West Virginia from closing. As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I will be calling for hearings and possibly holding nominations to prevent closures in West Virginia,” Senator Manchin said.
The VA MISSION Act also include the Andrew White Veterans Community Care Opioid Safety Act, bipartisan legislation Senator Manchin cosponsored last year to strengthen the opioid therapy safety and pain care that veterans receive through both the VA community care programs and private providers. This bill honors the memory of Andrew White, a West Virginia veteran who died in 2008 as a result of complications associated with PTSD medications. The VA MISSION Act also:
- Consolidates VA community care programs, including the Choice Program, with a program that makes more sense for veterans, VA employees, community providers and taxpayers.
- Expands caregiver benefits to veterans of all eras including family caregivers of veterans injured during World War II, the Korean, Vietnam and 1990-1991 Gulf War.
- Bolsters the ability of VA facilities to better serve veterans
- An increase in loan repayment amounts for VA medical professionals.
- Greater recruitment, retention and relocation incentives so that VA can attract and maintain high-quality providers and better address workforce vacancies.
- Authorization to hire more medical scribes to assist physicians so that doctors can focus on serving veterans, and not filling out paperwork.
- Incentives for medial residents ad providers to work at rural, tribal and underserved VA facilities.
- The establishment of mobile medical deployment teams to provide additional care at understaffed or overwhelmed VA facilities.
- Measures to increase accountability over opioid prescribing practices for veterans. These measures were originally proposed in the Andrew White Veterans Community Care Opioid Safety Act, of which Senator Manchin is a cosponsor.
- Additional transparency and accountability over VA contracts, such as HealthNet or the impending electronic health records contract.
- Removal of barriers for veterans to access mental telehealth care closer to home.
- Includes funding to keep the Choice Program operating until the new community care program is operational. The $5.2 billion in funding is necessary to prevent disruptions of care for veterans and to keep the Choice Program operating until the new community care program is operational in May 2019.
Background on the AIR Act:
The Air Act would create a 9-member, Senate-confirmed Commission tasked with conducting a comprehensive review of VA facilities and identifying where investments should be made and where facilities should be consolidated, realigned, exchanged, outleased, replaced, sold or disposed. In the early 2000s, the last time there was an asset review, the CARES Commission recommended closing the acute inpatient hospital beds and contracting for acute care in the community for the Beckley VA Medical Center.
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