2019-05-15 / Front Page

Healthcare Act For Those Who Have Served Will Be Implemented in June

Will Allow More Options and Input From Veterans
By Rosie Cunningham

DELAWARE COUNTY - The implementation of the Mission Act will improve the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system for the benefit of the nation’s veterans.

According to Delaware County Director & Veterans Service Officer Charles Piper, the act will be established on June 6.

The bill consolidates VA’s multiple community care programs and authorities and provides further funding for the Choice Program which was established in 2014. It would establish an Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) process to recommend actions to modernize and realign VA’s massive medical infrastructure and also expands VA’s Family Caregiver Program to pre-9/11 veterans and increases VA’s internal capacity to care for veteran patients in VA medical facilities through improvements to various recruitment and retention programs.

Through the program, veterans who are enrolled in the VA healthcare system or otherwise entitled to VA care would be granted access to care in the community or a Community Care Network (CCN). Access to community care would be required under the program if VA does not offer the care or services the veteran requires, if VA does not operate a full-service medical facility in the state in which a given veteran resides, if a given veteran was eligible for care in the community under the Choice 40-mile rule and meets certain other criteria, or if a given veteran and the referring clinician agree that furnishing care in the community is in the best medical interest of the veteran after considering certain criteria. Access to community care would also be required if VA is not able to furnish care within designated access standards developed by VA after consultation with certain other entities and published in the Federal Register and on VA’s website. Care may be authorized in the community if a given medical service line within a VA facility fails to meet certain VA quality standards developed by VA or if veterans in need of an organ or bone marrow transplant have a medically compelling reason to travel outside the region of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Additionally, eligible veterans will be authorized two visits per calendar year at participating walk-in or federally-qualified healthcare clinics.

“I am happy with the changes and improvements,” said Piper.

Piper said the Mission Act is an improved version of the Veterans Choice Program which is what veterans are currently being offered.

“The thought process was there,” he said of the Choice Program. “There was good input, but the VA made it difficult to enact.”

Piper said in the Choice program mileage and isolation is an issue for rural veterans and that there were limited options for healthcare.

“We welcome them home from a war environment and when they need medical care we give them limited options which are sometimes not feasible. There are healthcare programs that veterans can utilize at the VA in Albany but there needs to be better options for immediate healthcare - such as a for veteran who suffers from PTSD and is thinking about suicide - he or she needs help immediately and can’t wait to go to the VA.”

Piper said community care generally must be authorized in advance by the VA but there are exceptions. However, this requirement does not apply to urgent care or walk-ins.

Piper said the Mission Act’s number-one role is to establish the community care program, to modernize and give veterans input.

Piper said many veterans come to his office and they understand the process but are often stumped with the paperwork that is required.

“Our office is here to help,” he said.

The Delaware County Veterans Services office is located at 1 Gallant Avenue, Highway Annex, Suite A, Delhi. For further information, call veterans services at 607-832-5345.

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