This week, we delivered on another promise for our veterans as the House passed the VA Mission Act. The bill, which I cosponsored, empowers veterans to have more control over their health care and provides more quality choices within their own communities.
My office has received countless inquiry requests from local veterans due to failure and ineffectiveness of the Choice Program in providing quality care to our veterans. Larry Fowler, a constituent from Citrus County, was denied for participation in the Choice Program because he lived within 40 miles of a VA clinic. Yet, this local VA clinic did not offer the medical services he needed.
The nearest VA facility offering these services was more than an hour-and-a-half drive from his home. Despite multiple inquiries sent by my office on Mr. Fowler’s behalf, the VA remained steadfast in their denial of this veteran receiving the care he needed because their bureaucratic application of the law gave no regard for the fact that the 40 mile requirement did not serve Mr. Fowler’s medical needs. This is just one story of many and this is unacceptable.
The VA Mission Act takes the first step in delivering what our veterans desperately need: faster and better-quality health care for all who have honorably served our country. It expands service options by removing the current 30-day, 40-mile barriers in the Choice Program. It streamlines the burdensome bureaucracy of the VA health care system by consolidating seven duplicative programs into one cohesive health care program. An additional $5.2 billion in funding is added to maintain the current Choice Program while the new system is implemented, ensuring that veterans currently making use of the program continue to receive their health care without any interruptions or lapses in service.
Additionally, a fair, transparent, and nonpartisan process is established for a comprehensive audit of the VA. It moves the VA from reliance on outdated, inefficient facilities to a modern infrastructure, incentivizing the agency to move towards current healthcare delivery models and swifter communication between the agency and the veterans.
We owe our veterans a debt we can never repay. I thank President Trump for making serving veterans a priority and working with Congress to enact much needed reform and accountability. I will continue to work to provide veterans with the quality, efficient and timely services they need and have earned.
Congressman Daniel Webster represents The Villages in the U.S. House of Representatives.