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VA shows ‘willful disregard’ for health care choice, senators say

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

Nine members of the U.S. Senate are accusing the Department of Veterans Affairs of purposefully ignoring the bipartisan will of Congress by failing to implement the MISSION Act, which allowed veterans to seek private-sector care.

“Veterans across the country are subject to unacceptably long waiting periods to receive care or have appointments continually rescheduled because the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) refuses to follow guidance and statute create by the MISSION Act,” the senators wrote in their letter. “Veterans deserve access to quality health care in a timely manner and the VA’s failure to do so and willful disregard for established standards is unacceptable.”

When Congress passed the bipartisan MISSION Act in 2018, it gave veterans the option of private care, also known as “community care,” when VA care is too far away or whenever it’s in their best medical interest.

But veterans have reported significant implementation problems over the last 18 months. VA shut down the MISSION Act webpage that described how veterans can use the law to their advantage and instead directed veterans to use only VA care, an act the letter said was among the most alarming actions VA has taken to ignore the law.

“On a weekly basis, our constituents voice concerns and present evidence that the VA is ignoring these guidelines in an effort to reduce community care, and ultimately deny mandated care to eligible veterans,” the senators wrote.

They also complained that VA has avoided congressional inquiries about the status of the MISSION Act.

“We ask you [to] reaffirm the VA’s commitment to veterans and your relationship with Congress by addressing the VA’s apparently intentional non-compliance with the spirit and legal standards of the MISSION Act,” they wrote.

The letter was signed by Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rick Scott (R-FL) and John Thune (R-SD).

Read the Senators’ letter here:

Senate VA letter MISSION Act
Download PDF • 2.47MB

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