(U.S. Senate) – Ranking Member Jon Tester is leading a demand for more transparency and information from the VA about its implementation of the bipartisan VA MISSION Act.
Tester led a group of 28 Senators in expressing their frustration with the VA’s lack of communication about critical decisions on community care access standards that will help determine when a veteran is eligible for community care. In a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, the Senators wrote:
“At recent briefings, VA leadership officials have indicated the Department now intends to designate all clinical services as making a veteran nearly-automatically eligible for community care. This will significantly increase the overall cost and amount of care VA will send to the community. Given that the administration opposes increasing overall federal spending, these increased costs for community care will likely come at the expense of VA’s direct system of care. And that is something we cannot support.”
The VA MISSION Act was written by Republicans and Democrats to overhaul and streamline the VA’s community care programs. Congress and the VA agreed the Secretary would designate three-to-five types of care, like laboratory tests, X-rays, or urgent care, as eligible for community care if that care was clinically necessary.
In December, Tester grilled Wilkie about this same issue and his concern that designating all clinical services as nearly-automatic for community care would be putting the VA down a path towards privatization. Tester also previously held the VA accountable for providing a smooth transition to the new Veterans Community Care Program for Montana veterans ahead of its expected launch date of June 2019.
Tester is joined by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Ver.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-N.M.).
Their letter can be read online HERE.