Isakson, Tester Urge Senate to Pass Landmark VA Legislation

Joined by committee members, veterans’ advocacy organizations in call for quick passage of ‘VA MISSION Act’

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today stood with members of the committee and representatives from veteran and military advocacy organizations to urge the Senate to pass landmark legislation to improve care and services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Isakson and Tester, along with committee members Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., held a press conference with Veterans’ Service Organizations prior to today’s vote to proceed to the John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act of 2018, or VA MISSION Act for short, urging their Senate colleagues to support the bill. The Senate voted 91-4 today on a procedural motion to begin debate on the legislation.

The VA MISSION Act includes some of the most significant reforms proposed to-date to improve the VA’s current healthcare delivery system and help provide veterans with more choice and fewer barriers to care. It builds on legislation previously introduced by Isakson and Tester 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.

“I first want to thank our Veterans’ Service Organizations, without whom this would not be possible. You are the heart of this committee, because you’re the ones who’ve offered, sacrificed and fought, and worked for veterans’ benefits as one who loves the service and loves the country,” said Isakson during remarks. “Memorial Day is coming up next week, and today the Senate will begin the process of passing the VA MISSION Act, which is the last piece of a great mosaic to reform benefits for our nation’s veterans, make them contemporary for the 21st century and see to it that the best care, the best attention and the best legislation is in place for our veterans. I urge the Senate to pass the VA MISSION Act so that our men and women in the military have 21st century benefits by the country they volunteered to fight for.”

“The VA MISSION Act recognizes there is a balance needed between VA care and community care and invests in medical and clinical staff to serve veterans at the VA,” said Tester. “This nation owes our veterans more than a thank you. Veterans deserve a health care system that works for them, regardless of where they live, what medical condition they are struggling with, and whatever their means. I urge the Senate to pass the VA MISSION Act to send the message that saying thank you isn’t enough to those who have put their lives on the line for our nation. We’re going to deliver them a health care system that is worthy of their service.”

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. In addition, the Easterseals announced support for the bill yesterday, May 21.

Both the White House, Acting VA Secretary Wilkie and seven former leaders of the VA have announced support for the bill.

The VA MISSION Act was passed 347-70 by the full U.S. House of Representatives on May 16. Once it passes the Senate this week, it will head to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

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

Isakson’s full remarks are available to view 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 Committee on Veterans’ Affairs 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.