2.5 million veterans know President Trump gave them real, permanent health care choice

In 2018, President Trump signed into law the MISSION Act, fulfilling a promise he made to veterans to put them at the center of their health care decisions and remove bureaucratic roadblocks when they want to get care in their community, not from a VA hospital. This is one of the many ways Trump’s health care plan is providing Americans with better care.

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Trump said his goal was to ensure veterans could “get taken care of quickly, effectively and go about their business.”

Today, 2.5 million American veterans have benefited from the realization of that idea. That’s the number of veterans we have referred to private care so far under the MISSION Act, which finally gave them real, permanent choice.

Lately, many in Washington have tried to tell people veterans already had health care “choice.” It’s true that President Barack Obama signed legislation into law in 2014 that created a limited, temporary choice program. But did it work?

For one thing, it was only open to a limited group of veterans. Many said it was too complicated to use, and Obama’s own blue-ribbon Commission on Care noted that the program was “flawed” in both “execution and design” with “public and glaring” deficiencies. VA’s Office of Inspector General agreed in a 2017 report that cited “barriers” to using the program. One of those barriers was an “inadequate” network of private doctors that would see veterans.

Some of those who did get care on the outside were unpleasantly surprised when they were billed directly for that care. But not too many even got that far. After 11 months, VA approved just 283,500 appointments for private care, and only half of those appointments took place within that period.

In contrast, under the MISSION Act, VA has now referred 2.5 million veterans to private facilities in its first 16 months of implementation – that’s 40% of the veterans who routinely get care at VA each year. Under the new law, they can now get community care under this permanent option, not just when they live too far away, but whenever it’s in their medical interest to do so.

Did this destroy VA, as many predicted it would? Not at all. In fact, veterans are seeking out care at VA in record numbers due to ongoing improvements we’ve made. In the last fiscal year, we completed a record high 59.9 million appointments, 1.7 million more than the prior year, and veterans’ trust in VA reached an all-time high in April.

Those impressive numbers reflect our full commitment to ensuring veterans receive care in the best way for them.

The MISSION Act isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Accountability at VA, another hallmark of the last few years, led to the firing of more than 11,300 employees for cause who were not living up to the standards our veterans expect and deserve.

President Trump delivered a White House/VA hotline, and this service has fielded more than 501,000 calls and emails to help get veterans’ questions and concerns answered.

VA has also increased mental health care access and has implemented legislation to boost program funding in this important area. VA now offers same-day mental health care at all its facilities, and over the summer, the White House and VA launched the PREVENTS roadmap, an ambitious attempt to reduce suicide among the entire general population.

This administration gave veterans real, permanent choice in the community and fixed VA at the same time, giving our patients access to quality care, whichever option they choose. And whatever they’re saying in Washington, millions of veterans know it.

Robert Wilkie (@SecWilkie) is the 10th secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Tags: Opinion, Op-Eds

Original Author: Sec. Robert Wilkie

Original Location: 2.5 million veterans know President Trump gave them real, permanent health care choice

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