Senate must pass Mission Act to give veterans care they deserve

Senate must pass Mission Act to give veterans care they deserve
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The House has overwhelmingly passed the Mission Act to give our veterans real choice over their health care by allowing them to get care outside the Veterans Affairs (VA) system when they need it. It is now up to the Senate to send this bill to President TrumpDonald John TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE to sign by Memorial Day.

Millions of veterans live in areas of the country where VA health care centers, hospitals and doctors are not reasonably accessible. In many cases, the nearest VA facility may be hundreds of miles from their homes. It is wholly unreasonable to even suggest that a veteran be burdened with the inconvenience of traveling great distances for care. It is not right and it puts the veteran in danger of not getting quality or immediate care.

President Trump has made the Mission Act a priority. This is not about making good on a campaign promise, this is about making good on the promise our country made to those who serve our nation. We owe it to our heroes to provide them with accessible and quality health care where they live. The organization Concerned Veterans for America set forth the top five things to know about the Mission Act.

First, the bill would overhaul and expand the Choice Program, allowing veterans greater access to health care outside the VA system. It would do away with arbitrary criteria to qualify and put into place clear guidelines for accessing community care. It also would streamline community care programs to cut down on confusion and waste.

Second, the bill would provide funding for the Choice Program in the interim so that the veterans using it don’t see a disruption in their medical care. Current funding is expected to run out by the end of this month. Third, this legislation would also allow for Congress and the VA to review the department’s physical assets to ensure resources aren’t wasted on unused or underutilized facilities.

Fourth, the legislation has the support of nearly 40 veterans service organizations. Fifth, the Mission Act has bipartisan support, passing the House by a vote of 347-70. One of the dissenters who voted down the bill while it was in committee was Rep. Tim WalzTimothy (Tim) James WalzMinnesota House votes to allow driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants Minnesota governor announces goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050 Minnesota governor rips lawmaker for saying gun control backers should be ‘run over' MORE (D-Minn.), who has constantly stood in the way of reforming the VA system.

In the words of House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: State of the Union takeaways | Sights and sounds from the night | Virginia attorney general admits he wore blackface Activist who met with GOP lawmakers also promotes ‘black violence’ gene: report GOP lawmaker to be challenged by Dem he delivered as a newborn MORE (R-Tenn.), “This is a once in a lifetime, transformational bill.” Veterans need the Mission Act to ensure they have access to the quality and timely care they were promised when they put on the uniform.

Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie has urged quick passage of the bill to avoid running out of funding for the existing Choice Program in the next two weeks. The bill will transform the VA into a “modern, high performing, and integrated health care system that will ensure our veterans receive the best health care possible from the VA, whether delivered in the VA’s own facilities or in the community,” Wilkie said.

He added, “Veterans are counting on Congress to approve this vital legislation by Memorial Day,” and send it to President Trump, who has pledged to sign it immediately. The Mission Act will allow the time necessary to fine tune the Choice Program to make sure outside VA care is exactly what it should be, which is seamless in delivery, accessibility and administration. Now is the time for our leaders in Washington to come to the aid of veterans. There is no other choice in this matter.

Bradley A. Blakeman is a political consultant who served as a member of President George W. Bush’s senior White House staff from 2001 to 2004. He is a frequent contributor to Fox News and Fox Business.