Isakson: Veterans are Counting on Success of VA MISSION Act

Calls on VA to ‘fundamentally change the service they deliver for the better’

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, called on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to do everything in its power to “fundamentally change the service they deliver for the better” during a committee hearing on the ongoing implementation of the VA MISSION Act.

The VA MISSION Act, landmark legislation authored by Isakson and signed into law in 2018, improves the way the VA delivers health care by streamlining the department’s community care programs to remove bureaucratic obstacles to care in the community and ensure veterans receive efficient, timely and quality care.

“Everybody wants us to be successful,” said Isakson to the VA officials testifying at Wednesday’s hearing. “We want the VA to …fundamentally change the service they deliver for the better, reliability for the better, participation for the better, so timely care to a veteran is the primary thing we’re providing and we provide a mechanism to do that as efficiently as possible to avoid a lot of the problems we’ve had in the past.”

“The MISSION Act is an amazing piece of legislation, it’s comprehensive, it took a lot of testimony and those of you who came to all of our meetings will tell you … we got the input of the veteran, we got the input of the professionals, we got the input of the [VA] and we have a bill that I think has the opportunity to be a mainstream positive from here on out,” Isakson continued. “We have no option but for it to be that. I will tell you this…we cannot fail.”

Isakson emphasized that the committee is eager to assist the VA throughout the implementation process to ensure the reformed community care program is a success from day one. The VA is expected to implement the new, streamlined Veterans Community Care Program by June 6, 2019, and Isakson questioned Dr. Richard Stone, the executive in charge at the Veterans Health Administration, on whether the VA would be able to meet this deadline.

“The VA is populated with a lot of systems that were bought that are old and antiquated,” questioned Isakson. “Are you going to be able to be as functional as you want to be given what you’ve got and are you going to be ready June 6th to deliver what the VA MISSION Act has asked for?”

Stone explained that the software transition for the Veterans Community Care Program is complex and some problems may need correcting, but the VA is confident that they will deliver care on June 6 and will continue to improve each day. Isakson thanked Stone for his candor and pledged to assist as needed in reaching that goal and correcting problems as they arise.

Wednesday’s hearing included testimony from two panels of witnesses from the VA, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Disabled American Veterans and Milliman, an actuarial firm that developed expenditure estimates for the VA MISSION Act.

Watch Isakson’s opening remarks here and his question for Dr. Stone here.

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The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 116th 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 nearly 700,000 veterans.