Isakson’s Landmark VA Legislation Signed into Law

‘Final piece in great mosaic’ of reforms led by Isakson to improve veterans’ health care, services, benefits

VA MISSION Act signing

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today applauded the president’s signing into law landmark legislation he authored to strengthen healthcare services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) while streamlining the department’s community care programs to ensure veterans receive efficient, timely and quality care, whether inside the VA system or from providers in their communities.

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, is a bipartisan bill that Isakson worked on for more than 18 months and is the 16th veterans bill signed into law since January 2017.

“We owe our veterans the best possible care and support that they have earned,” said Isakson, who participated in today’s bill signing with the president. “This is a truly meaningful victory for our nation’s veterans, who will benefit from more choice and fewer barriers to care. The signing of this legislation marks the completion of the final piece in a great mosaic of veterans reforms that we set out to accomplish over the last two years. I thank President Trump for his unwavering support for our veterans, and I appreciate my colleagues in Congress who upheld our commitment to our veterans by voting for some of the most significant reforms to-date to improve the VA’s current healthcare delivery system.”

The VA MISSION Act builds on legislation previously introduced by Isakson to consolidate and improve VA community care programs, which allow veterans to receive healthcare services provided by private hospitals and doctors. 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.

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 was passed by the full U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 347-70 on May 16, and the full Senate by a vote of 92-5 on May 23.

The VA MISSION Act 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.

Seven former heads of the VA and former Acting VA Secretary Wilkie also wrote to Congressional leadership in support of the bill.

The full title of the legislation was amended on Tuesday, May 15, by House Committee on 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 U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, have had on the lives of our nation’s veterans.

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

###

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.