MISSION Act Provides More Health Care to Veterans

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A new act is making it easier for veterans to receive health care regardless of where they live.

The VA MISSION Act allows veterans who have VA health care to access approved non-VA health resources closer to their home.

Before this act, some veterans could receive non-VA health care, but only in special circumstances.

By expanding this coverage, the hope is that veterans will have more opportunities to receive high-quality medical care from local doctors and hospitals in a timely manner.

What is the MISSION Act?

The VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act of 2018 is one of the largest overhauls to the VA’s health care system to date.

The MISSION act allows veterans to seek health care from certain local hospitals if it would not be logical for them to go to a VA health care center.

For example, a veteran who lives five hours from the nearest VA health center would likely qualify for local coverage under the MISSION Act.

The act was passed in 2018 and took effect on June 6, 2019.

According to the New York Times, the changes made under the MISSION Act are some of the biggest to government health care since the Affordable Care Act passed. Over 9 million people have VA health care coverage, and many may qualify for local care under this act.

MISSION Act Benefits for Veterans

There are many benefits that the MISSION Act provides to veterans and their families. By expanding coverage to include local options, veterans can get health care faster and more easily than ever before.

Notable benefits include:

Localized Care

One of the biggest challenges for veterans with VA health care is that they may live very far away from the closest VA-affiliated care center. This can make it difficult for them to receive medical care in a timely manner.

In addition, several states and territories — including Hawaii, Alaska, New Hampshire and Guam — do not have any VA-health care centers.

Under the MISSION Act, these veterans can access non-VA health care in their community if they must drive more than 30 minutes for general health care or more than an hour for specialized care.

Shorter Wait Times

The New York Times notes that the MISSION Act will also reduce the amount of time veterans have to wait for their health care.

Previously, veterans could only access civilian health care centers through their VA coverage if they faced wait times of 30 days or more. Under the MISSION Act, this is reduced to 20 days.

At this time, the VA is optimistic they can reduce the wait times to 14 days by 2020.

How the MISSION Act Helps Veterans with Mesothelioma

The MISSION Act may be very helpful to veterans who are suffering from mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma slowly develops over a period of 20-50 years and spreads aggressively throughout the body. Veterans often need immediate medical treatment if they want to achieve long-term survival.

However, there are only a handful of health care centers within the VA that provide treatment for mesothelioma at this time.

These VA health care centers include:

  • The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center
  • The Boston VA Medical Center

Veterans with mesothelioma may need to make long-distance travel arrangements to receive treatment from these VA medical centers.

However, these medical centers specialize in pleural mesothelioma, meaning veterans with other types of mesothelioma would have to seek care from non-VA health care providers.

Under the MISSION Act, veterans with mesothelioma may be able to seek care from doctors who can properly treat them at a location closer to where they live.

Receiving Benefits Under the MISSION Act

To receive care from a local, non-VA medical center through the MISSION Act, all veterans need to be enrolled in VA health care.

Once enrolled, any of the following may qualify a veteran for localized medical care.

These qualifications include:

  1. You live in a state or territory without a VA-affiliated health care center.
  2. You need medical care that is not provided by the VA. This includes maternity care, certain OB/GYN services and possibly treatment for different types of mesothelioma.
  3. The VA cannot provide care to you in a timely manner. This includes if you live far away from the closest VA health care center or if the wait time for an appointment is too long.
  4. Your clinician believes you need local care. For example, if you need frequent medical care or checkups, it may not be in your best interest to travel if you live far from a VA health care center.
  5. You qualify for certain provisions under the “Grandfathering” provision of the Veterans Choice Program. The VA MISSION Act replaces the Veterans Choice Program (VCP), which allowed veterans to seek community care. Some veterans may still qualify to receive local care if they lived 40 miles from the nearest VA Center before the MISSION act went into effect.

To receive care from a local, non-VA health care provider, you will almost always need the approval of the VA. Your eligibility will depend on your unique health care needs — there is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

MISSION Act and the Future of VA Health Care

By expanding medical coverage through the MISSION Act, more veterans will be able to get easy access to health care than ever before.

According to USA Today, officials believe that the act will increase the number of veterans eligible for local care from around 500,000 to over 2 million.

This is important news to all veterans, including those with mesothelioma. By making the process easier, veterans with mesothelioma can reduce the amount of time they have to wait for medical care — a crucial factor in treating this cancer effectively.

If you are a veteran and have questions about health care and VA benefits, call the Mesothelioma Veterans Center at 877-450-8973. Our helpful and knowledgeable team can answer your questions.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

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  2. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2018, January 30). Veterans Choice Program. Retrieved June 13, 2019, from https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/veterans/VCP/index.asp
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