The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently released the draft access standards that will define how veterans will be able to access health care under the VA MISSION Act’s new community care program. This is a major step toward giving veterans more health care choices and making the VA a more veteran-centric organization.
But these proposed standards – which are simple, straightforward, and similar to those successfully used under the military TRICARE’s program – have already generated opposition from those who would rather preserve the status quo at the VA and put the needs of the bureaucracy above the needs of veterans.
As Congress and the American public begin to weigh in on the draft access standards, we cannot let scare tactics and false attacks detract from what this proposal actually means for veterans: more choices and better access to health care.
The VA MISSION Act was developed to better integrate the VA with community health care providers and fix structural issues with the VA’s outside care programs. Its ultimate goal is to improve access to care while expanding the health care options available to veterans through the VA.
The VA MISSION Act was a commonsense approach to VA health care reform after years of policies that have fallen short and we at Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) are proud to have supported it. Notably, it was also endorsed by over 30 veteran service organizations (VSO) and was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support before being signed into law by President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Milley warns of 'Sputnik moment' for China WSJ publishes letter from Trump continuing to allege voter fraud in PA Oath Keeper who was at Capitol on Jan. 6 runs for New Jersey State Assembly MORE in June 2018.
Despite strong support across the political spectrum and from nearly every major VSO, the law’s opponents (including some who had previously supported giving veterans more health care choice) attacked the proposed access standards before they were even made public. Sadly, these scare tactics appear to be part of a broader effort to undermine the law before it is even implemented.
Giving veterans more options makes sense. The opposition knows, however, that giving veterans more choices means reducing the power of the VA’s bureaucracy. Former VA Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinFormer VA secretaries propose National Warrior Call Day to raise military suicide awareness Biden's nominee for VA secretary isn't a veteran — does it matter? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Congress slogs toward COVID-19 relief, omnibus deal MORE stated, “as costs grow, resources are going to shift from V.A. to the private sector.” What’s important, though, is not where the resources go, but that they go to deliver the best care to the veterans who need it.
It’s not about privatizing or destroying the VA. Rather, it’s about the veteran. It’s about making the VA one of the options for veterans seeking quality care, not the only option. It is important to note, under the law and these draft standards, veterans will still have the option to stay in the VA health care system, and it should be a quality option for them.
With the proposed standards, more veterans will be able to obtain more consistent, reliable and timely access to health care that suits their unique situations. It puts our veterans in the driver’s seat and reorients the VA toward serving the veteran rather than itself.
Preceding the announcement of the draft standards, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie rightly pointed out, “Most Americans can already choose the health care providers that they trust … With VA’s new access standards, the future of the VA health care system will lie in the hands of Veterans – exactly where it should be.”
At the end of the day, veterans are better served when leaders like Secretary Wilkie care less about who delivers the care they need and more about making sure the veterans get and stay healthy. That was the intent of those who drafted, passed, and signed the VA MISSION Act into law, and it should remain unchanged today.
Let’s stop the scare tactics and have an honest discussion about how we can provide quality health care for those who have done so much to deserve it. As the VA works to implement the VA MISSION Act, it’s time to rise above the political games and resist any efforts to scale back its provisions or undermine the intent of the law.
Let’s give veterans the choices they deserve by ensuring the VA’s proposed standards are in place when the new community care program rolls out in June.
Dan Caldwell is executive director for Concerned Veterans for America.