Still searching for answers on how best to help veterans frustrated by their options within the VA health system, the Senate sent President Donald Trump a bill on Wednesday which allow vets more options to use private medical care if they face lengthy delays or a lack of certain medical services at VA health centers around the nation.
“The Senate passage of the VA MISSION Act is a major victory for our nation’s veterans who will benefit from more choice and fewer barriers to care,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who chairs the Senate Veterans Committee.
It’s not the first time that Congress has tried to help vets use medical resources outside of the VA for health care, as lawmakers continue to hear stories of vets who have been unable to get care near their homes, or have been forced to endure long waits for specialized appointments.
“This is a transformational piece of legislation that will improve the lives of veterans for generations to come, and I am thrilled this bill will soon be law,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), the chair of the House Veterans Committee.
“Passing this legislation is another promise made and promise kept to America’s Veterans under President Trump’s leadership, which has provided the most substantial VA reform in a generation,” the White House said in a written statement.
“This bill puts the needs of veterans first by giving them the option of seeking care when and where it makes the most sense for their needs,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).
The measure was easily approved by the House earlier this month on a vote of 347-70. The Senate vote on Wednesday was 92-5.
The 230 page bill has a wide reach within the VA, doing much more than just allowing veterans more access to care outside the VA health care system.
While a number of veterans groups supported the plan, there were some critics in the Congress, who charged this was just a step on the road to privatization of the VA system.
The plan authorizes $51 billion for the growing “Choice” program in the VA on outside medical care.
The VA bill was the third big piece of legislation approved by Congress and sent to the White House this week, as lawmakers also gave final approval to a “Right to Try” bill on experimental life-saving drugs, and a measure to roll back some of financial restrictions on banks approved after the 2008 Wall Street Collapse.