Tester Doubles Down on Demand for Answers on VA’s Implementation of MISSION Act

Senator holds VA accountable for quality and timeliness of veterans’ health care under new Veterans Community Care Program

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester today doubled down on his demand for answers on how the VA is implementing the new Veterans Community Care Program.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Tester questioned Dr. Richard Stone, the Executive in Charge of the Veterans Health Administration, about the VA’s roll out of the Veterans Community Care Program, which is expected to “go live” on June 6, 2019.  

These access standards will determine when veterans will go to community providers for their health care or stay with their VA doctor and are required by the VA MISSION Act, Tester’s bipartisan law that streamlined the VA’s seven community care programs into one Veterans Community Care Program.  

“Since the VA MISSION Act was signed into law, my concern is that the VA’s primary focus is supplanting in-house care, as opposed to supplementing that care when it makes the most sense for veterans,” said Tester. “And the VA is doing so without the benefit of having completed thorough market assessments that would confirm what the community can – and can NOT - actually offer. Not to mention, the VA is doing this without a firm grasp for how much it will cost American taxpayers.”

Tester continued with his frustration that despite the VA’s pride in delivering timelier and higher quality of health care to veterans, the VA is establishing quality standards for itself while not holding the private sector to any standard of care.

“My concern is that the VA is outsourcing its responsibility to ensure veterans receive timely and high-quality care,” said Tester. “When the VA sends veterans into the community without first knowing if that care can be provided in a timely manner or a high quality, it is outsourcing its responsibility. In writing the VA MISSION Act, we specifically required the VA to ensure that community providers could meet the same access standards the Department established for itself. But now, we find that the VA is establishing one set of rules for itself and no rules for the private sector.    

Tester also reminded the VA that when it outsources veterans’ health care, it cannot outsource its responsibility for that veteran’s well-being. 

More information about today’s hearing can be found online HERE.