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Congress passes VA Mission Act of 2018; President Trump expected to sign

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    Congress passes VA Mission Act of 2018; President Trump expected to sign

    On May 23, the U.S. Senate passed on a vote of 92-5 the VA Mission Act of 2018 (S. 2372), which would combine the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA’s) seven community care programs into one and extend the VA Choice Program for one year while the VA implements the new consolidated community care program.

    The bill would inject an additional $5.2 billion into the Choice Program, which allows veterans to obtain care from non-VA care providers – including county-owned and supported health care facilities – under certain conditions, and would sunset the program one year after the bill’s enactment. The measure passed the House on May 16 by a vote of 347-70 and now heads to President Trump’s desk and is expected to be signed within the next few days, just before funding for the Choice program runs out.

    The measure also expands the circumstances under which veterans can obtain non-VA health care. Currently, veterans may seek third-party care if they face a wait of at least 30 days for a VA appointment or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The VA Mission Act would remove these limitations and allow veterans access to non-VA care if they require services not offered by VA or if their doctor decides it is in their best interest. To gain support from Democrats, many of whom expressed concern the bill would drive veterans away from VA and undermine the agency by diverting resources from other VA programs, the bill would also boost funding to recruit more doctors to VA in an effort to improve capacity.

    Additionally, the VA Mission Act includes a provision that would expand VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to all veterans over the course of two years. Currently, monthly stipends, health insurance, medical training and access to home health aides are available to family caregivers for post 9/11 veterans, but not to veterans from other eras and their families. The program allows family caregivers to provide care for veterans in their own homes, offering an alternative to institutionalized care and reducing the costs to local governments associated with providing health care and other services to our nation’s veterans. Further, by allowing VA to contract with other entities to provide supportive services for family caregivers, and authorizing VA to compensate these entities for the services they provide, the VA MISSION Act can help reduce costs for counties that provide such services.

    Also of note, the bill would establish a prompt payment standard to ensure reimbursements from VA to third-party care providers, including county owned and supported health care facilities, are paid in a timely manner and would require VA to pay interest on any late payments. This measure would help ensure that health care providers, including counties, are able to continue serving VA-eligible veterans in a timely manner while avoiding unnecessary delays or added costs.

    NACo passed resolutions at its 2018 Legislative Conference supporting legislation to expand the caregiver program and to ensure prompt payments to non-VA care providers through the Choice Program. We thank Congress for addressing these important issues in the VA MISSION Act of 2018 and will continue monitoring the implementation of this legislation to ensure that the needs and interests of America’s counties are reflected.

    On May 23, the U.S. Senate passed on a vote of 92-5 the VA Mission Act of 2018 (S. 2372), which would combine the U.S.
    2018-05-25
    Blog
    2018-05-30
Congress passes VA MISSION Act of 2018. Bill will combine VA’s community care programs into one, expand family caregiver program and ensure prompt payments to non-VA care providers. VA MISSION Act heads to President Trump’s desk – includes NACo-supported language to expand family caregiver program to pre 9/11 veterans and ensure prompt payments to non-VA health facilities serving veterans.

On May 23, the U.S. Senate passed on a vote of 92-5 the VA Mission Act of 2018 (S. 2372), which would combine the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA’s) seven community care programs into one and extend the VA Choice Program for one year while the VA implements the new consolidated community care program.

The bill would inject an additional $5.2 billion into the Choice Program, which allows veterans to obtain care from non-VA care providers – including county-owned and supported health care facilities – under certain conditions, and would sunset the program one year after the bill’s enactment. The measure passed the House on May 16 by a vote of 347-70 and now heads to President Trump’s desk and is expected to be signed within the next few days, just before funding for the Choice program runs out.

The measure also expands the circumstances under which veterans can obtain non-VA health care. Currently, veterans may seek third-party care if they face a wait of at least 30 days for a VA appointment or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The VA Mission Act would remove these limitations and allow veterans access to non-VA care if they require services not offered by VA or if their doctor decides it is in their best interest. To gain support from Democrats, many of whom expressed concern the bill would drive veterans away from VA and undermine the agency by diverting resources from other VA programs, the bill would also boost funding to recruit more doctors to VA in an effort to improve capacity.

Additionally, the VA Mission Act includes a provision that would expand VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to all veterans over the course of two years. Currently, monthly stipends, health insurance, medical training and access to home health aides are available to family caregivers for post 9/11 veterans, but not to veterans from other eras and their families. The program allows family caregivers to provide care for veterans in their own homes, offering an alternative to institutionalized care and reducing the costs to local governments associated with providing health care and other services to our nation’s veterans. Further, by allowing VA to contract with other entities to provide supportive services for family caregivers, and authorizing VA to compensate these entities for the services they provide, the VA MISSION Act can help reduce costs for counties that provide such services.

Also of note, the bill would establish a prompt payment standard to ensure reimbursements from VA to third-party care providers, including county owned and supported health care facilities, are paid in a timely manner and would require VA to pay interest on any late payments. This measure would help ensure that health care providers, including counties, are able to continue serving VA-eligible veterans in a timely manner while avoiding unnecessary delays or added costs.

NACo passed resolutions at its 2018 Legislative Conference supporting legislation to expand the caregiver program and to ensure prompt payments to non-VA care providers through the Choice Program. We thank Congress for addressing these important issues in the VA MISSION Act of 2018 and will continue monitoring the implementation of this legislation to ensure that the needs and interests of America’s counties are reflected.

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