Isakson Applauds House Passage of Landmark Legislation to Improve Veterans’ Community Care

Includes Isakson’s ‘Caring for Our Veterans Act’ to streamline VA community care programs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., applauded today’s passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of bipartisan legislation that will strengthen veterans’ healthcare services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) while streamlining its community care programs to ensure efficient, timely and quality care.

S.2372, the John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act, called the VA MISSION Act for short, builds on legislation previously introduced by Isakson and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., to consolidate and improve VA community care programs. The legislation also includes provisions to improve VA’s ability to hire high-quality healthcare professionals, expand VA caregiver benefits to veterans of all eras and establish a process to evaluate and reform VA’s existing facilities to best serve veterans.

The bill also authorizes and appropriates funding for the VA to continue the Veterans Choice Program until the new, streamlined ‘Veterans Community Care Program’ established in this legislation is implemented. Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie notified Congress last week that funding for the program will run out as early as May 31, 2018.

“This bicameral, bipartisan legislation is truly a testament to what can be accomplished when Congress works together,” said Isakson. “These reforms are some of the most significant changes proposed to-date to improve the VA’s current healthcare delivery system to help provide veterans with more choice and fewer barriers to care. I’d like to thank Chairman Roe, Senator Tester and our committee members from both chambers and on both sides of the aisle for their support. I applaud today’s bipartisan House action, and I urge the Senate to follow suit and quickly pass this legislation so we can send this bill to the president’s desk.”

The VA MISSION Act would establish a permanent, streamlined ‘Veterans Community Care Program’ to provide veterans with access to health care and services in their own communities.

In addition, the legislation will help improve existing VA health care and services by removing barriers for VA healthcare professionals to practice telemedicine, strengthening processes for opioid prescribing by VA and community care providers, and eliminating impediments to hiring and retention of VA healthcare professionals.

The VA MISSION Act also expands eligibility for the VA's Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to veterans of all generations.

A significant portion of this bipartisan, bicameral measure comes from Isakson and Tester’s bipartisan community care legislation, the Caring for Our Veterans Act, passed by the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in November 2017.

The full title of the legislation was amended on Tuesday, May 15, by House Committee of Veterans’ Affairs chairman U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., to honor the lasting impact that U.S. Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., the late Senator Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, have had on the lives of our nation’s veterans.

The VA MISSION Act has received broad support from leading veterans groups that represent millions of veterans in the United States. A group of 38 veteran and military advocacy organizations wrote to the House and Senate in support of the VA MISSION Act. Read a copy of the letter here.

Both the White House and Acting VA Secretary Wilkie have announced support for the bill.

The VA MISSION Act was passed by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in a vote of 20-2 on May 8. Following its passage 347-70 by the full U.S. House of Representatives today, it now advances to the full U.S. Senate for a vote.

A one-page summary of the VA MISSION Act is available here, and a section-by-section summary is available here

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The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the armed services as well as more than 750,000 veterans.