Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden this past week urged Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie not to repeat past mistakes when it comes to veterans receiving care outside the VA.
The VA switched to a new community care program, based on the provisions of the Mission Act, in June. The VA has said its goal is to make it easier for veterans to receive care outside the VA when they need to, and for those who provide that care to receive timely payments for their services.
Like its predecessor, the Choice Act, the Mission Act allows veterans to receive outside care and have the VA pay for that care if the drive or the wait for VA care would be too long.
However, some veterans fear the problems with Choice, including a complicated bureaucracy that made it challenging for providers to receive timely payments, will continue under Mission.
Others are concerned that increasing the privatization of services will harm the VA programs by depriving them of funding.
In their letter to Wilkie, Wyden and Merkley said that they are seeking assurances that the mistakes of the previous program will not be repeated.
“We believe strongly that veterans should spend their time getting good health care rather than driving to it, especially in states like Oregon where many veterans living in rural areas are underserved,” they wrote.
The Oregon senators also implored Wilkie not to allow community care to come at the expense of the VA’s core functions.