Rep. Daniel Webster: Trump takes action to improve veterans’ health care

In a victory for veterans, President Trump signed a bill into law Wednesday that I co-sponsored to enable more veterans to get medical care from doctors outside the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system.

 The VA Mission Act was designed to address problems of long waiting lists that caused unacceptable delays in veterans receiving needed health care directly from the VA.

The new law empowers veterans to have more control over their health care and provides more quality choices within their own communities.

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.

The new law expands health-care options by removing the barriers in the current Choice Program that requires veterans to have waited 30 days or to live more than 40 miles from a VA health-care facility to qualify for government-funded health-care outside the VA system.

In addition, the VA Mission Act 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 authorized 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.

The law also creates equity between seriously injured pre-9/11 and post-9/11 veterans by allowing pre-9/11 veteran caregivers to receive the same monthly stipend.

Finally, a fair, transparent and nonpartisan process is established for a comprehensive audit of the VA. This is designed to transform the VA from reliance on outdated and inefficient facilities to a more modern infrastructure based on current health-care delivery models, incentivizing the agency to move towards electronic record keeping and swifter communication between the agency and veterans.

The new law also establishes more accountability over the VA so Congress can better ensure every taxpayer dollar is spent judiciously to serve our veterans.

I thank President Trump for making serving veterans a priority and working with Congress to enact needed new laws and accountability. I will continue to work to provide veterans with the quality, efficient and timely services they need and have earned.

President Trump and congressional Republicans have made bringing serious reform to the VA a priority. From expanding the educational and economic opportunities for our veterans through the Forever G.I. Bill, to increasing accountability at the VA through the Whistleblowers Act, we are acting on our commitment to provide our veterans the care and attention they deserve.

Veterans fought for the freedoms of complete strangers, they fought for individuals they never met. They fought for the oppressed, for their parents, for friends and neighbors, for their own children and grandchildren to come, for you and me. We owe our veterans a debt we can never repay.

Serving our veterans is one of my top priorities, from engaging with the VA on their behalf to ensure continuity of benefits and care, to advocating and supporting legislation to improve and modernize our VA system. In 2017, my staff worked with VA liaisons and County Veteran Services offices to recoup over $1 million in compensation, pension or retroactive payments for veterans in my congressional district.   

My office has received countless inquiry requests from local veterans due to the failure and ineffectiveness of the Choice Program in providing quality care to our veterans.

Larry Fowler, my constituent from Citrus County, Florida, was denied 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 a 90-minute ride from Mr. Fowler’s home. Despite multiple inquiries sent by my office on his behalf, the VA remained steadfast in its 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.

President Trump and Congress are working together and now we have improved conditions for Larry Fowler and veterans like him around the nation with the VA Mission Act.

Rep. Daniel Webster is a Republican representing Florida District 11 in the U.S. House of Representatives.