Last summer, the Veterans Affairs Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act, which is more commonly known as the VA Mission Act, was passed by Congress and signed by the President. The law addresses a host of concerns raised by veterans, lawmakers, and advocates in recent years about the VA’s numerous and often competing community care programs, which have now been merged and consolidated into a single Veterans Community Care Program. This program is anticipated to reduce the complexity of applying for and administering these benefits by making more efficient use of the VA’s resources. The VA has been given one year to develop regulations that will help implement the changes.
If you have questions about how the new law will affect your own rights, it is important to speak with an experienced Illinois VA disability benefits attorney who can address your concerns.
Changes to Community Care
The VA Mission Act consolidates seven different VA community care programs into a single entity, which is tasked with providing care to veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system or who are otherwise entitled to VA assistance. This comes with an obligation to coordinate veterans’ care, which includes:
- Scheduling medical appointments in a timely manner;
- Ensuring the continuity of services and care;
- Coordinating coverage for those who require VA care that is offered outside of their region; and
- Ensuring that veterans do not experience a lapse in healthcare services.
The application of these requirements means that the VA must now provide access to community care in certain situations, namely when:
- The VA does not offer the services or care that a veteran requires;
- The VA does not operate a full-service facility in a veteran’s state;
- The veteran is eligible to receive care according to the 40-mile rule;
- The VA is not able to provide care that meets access standards; or
- A veteran and his or her referring clinician agree that providing care in the community would be in the veteran’s best medical interest based on the distance between the veteran and the facility where care is provided, the nature of the services, how often care must be provided, the timeline of available appointments, and whether the veteran faces an excessive burden in accessing VA care.
To fulfill these obligations and ensure that veterans receive care when necessary, the VA will also be required to enter into contracts with private healthcare networks.
Access to Walk-in Services
The VA Mission Act also authorizes the VA to provide walk-in care for enrolled veterans by entering into agreements with community providers and federally-qualified health centers. However, these services only need to be provided if the veteran in question used VA healthcare services in the previous two years. Furthermore, veterans who do not owe a copayment at the VA are entitled to two free visits, after which the VA will be permitted to charge an adjustable copay. Veterans who are required to make a copayment, on the other hand, would be permitted to pay that copay for the first two visits, at which point, the VA could begin charging an adjusted copay for additional visits. Finally, the VA will be required to ensure that walk-in providers have access to all VA medical records.
Call Our Legal Team Today
To speak with dedicated VA benefits attorney James R. Comerford about how the new VA law could affect your own rights, please contact The Comerford Law Office, LLC by calling 312-863-8572 or by sending us an online message today.