V.A. makes big move with Mission Act

Local News

The Department of Veterans Affairs is now allowing 9 million enrolled veterans to access medical care outside of V.A. hospitals. 

Some are calling it the biggest shift in the U.S. healthcare system since the Affordable Care Act.

The Mission Act was passed into law on June 6, 2018, and exactly a year later it went live. 

It’s meant to make access to healthcare faster and easier for veterans. 

The requirements that allow veterans to use doctors outside of the V.A. are now less strict under the Mission Act. 

Veterans could previously see a non-V.A. doctor if their wait time for an appointment was 30 days or more under the Choice Act. The Mission Act changed that to 20 days. The V.A. plans to make that even shorter next year. 

Some veterans at the American Legion in Emporia say they are pleased. However, they do have questions, which is something the V.A. Northeast Kansas predicted. 

“We expect many more questions, many more inquires over the next couple of weeks as this gets rolling,” said Joseph Burks with the Northeast Kansas V.A. 

One of those questions is what is covered with the new changes, like physical therapy or mental health services. 

“Apparently there is a distinction between ordinary care and specialty care, so we need to know how that is defined. Is that dental work? Is that eyeglasses? What is involved in that?” veteran John Sanderson said. 

These veterans say they hope the IT systems will be more up to date with the Mission Act, a longtime criticism of the V.A. systems. 

“The first thing usually when you go to a doctor, they want to know the background of your problem, your situation,”  veteran Dennis Paul said. “And in most hospitals and medical things they can look it up on a computer and stuff, but the V.A.’s computer system is not compatible with our hospital and our local doctors.” 

Paul had to drive to Topeka’s V.A. to access his records, instead of getting a digital copy sent to his doctor. 

“There’s a lot involved in anything like this and I hope that they can get it done and I hope it works for everybody,” veteran Dennis Kasten said. 

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