BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A new veterans’ health care bill was signed into law by President Donald Trump in a ceremony on Wednesday and local officials are looking forward to the new benefits of the law and their impact on area veterans.
The new law takes a closer look at distances to Veteran’s Administration facilities, types and timeliness of services and appointments and whether veterans are facing “excessive burdens”.
The new law builds on previous legislation championed by the American Legion that pushed for medical services to be more accessible to all veterans. In 2012 the American Legion put forward a resolution that stated the VA must “develop a well-defined and consistent non-VA care coordination program, policy and procedure that includes a patient-centered care strategy which takes veterans’ unique medical injuries and illnesses as well as their travel and distance into account.”
The new law also contains provisions to streamlines community care programs, provides funding for those programs through 2019 and strengthens the department’s abilities to staff and recruit high quality medical personnel including offering two and four year scholarships and residencies at VA facilities.
Title II of the law requires the VA to assess the capacity of each Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) and identify deficiencies within each VISN.
Title III focuses on improving the recruitment and retainment of quality health care professionals by providing two to four-year scholarships to medical students in exchange for service to the VA. The VA MISSION Act also increases the amount of education debt reduction available from $120,000 to $200,000 over five years, and establishes the VA Specialty Education Loan Repayment Program. Title III also establishes a pilot program for veterans healing veterans supporting four years of medical school education costs for two veterans at select medical schools. There’s also a provision requiring the VA to ensure clinical staff are able to participate in the Education Debt Reduction Program.
Other sections of the law focus on reporting streamlining and transparency, as well as looking into underperforming facilities and flagging facilities for medical deployment teams to go to facilities and take corrective measures. The law will also identifying facilities for medical residency programs.