Alexander: Veterans Can Find Health Care Closer to Home Under New Senate Bill

Posted on May 24, 2018

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2018 — Tennessee veterans will find health care closer to home under new legislation passed by the Senate, according to Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Among the many benefits of the legislation, veterans in Tennessee will now have the ability to seek medical care outside the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regardless if they are able to get into a VA facility within 30 days or live more than 40 miles away from a VA health care facility.

Senator Alexander said, “This bipartisan legislation is good news for veterans in Tennessee and across the nation. It is our responsibility to ensure the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to serve our nation have timely access to more health care choices, and this bill will do just that. I applaud Chairman Phil Roe for his leadership on this legislation and hard work on behalf of our nation’s veterans, and I look forward to President Trump signing this legislation into law.”

The John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act yesterday passed the Senate by a vote of 92-5. It passed the House of Representatives last week by a vote of 347-70 and is supported by President Donald Trump and Acting Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie. In addition, 38 veteran and military advocacy groups wrote a letter to both chambers of Congress in support of the bill.

Specifically, the bill:

  • Provides $5.2 billion for the Veterans Choice Fund.
  • Ends the arbitrary “30/day, 40-mile rule” that prevented veterans from seeking medical care outside the VA if they were able to get into a VA facility within 30 days or lived within 40 miles of a VA health care facility.
  • Expands the VA Caregiver Program to pre-9/11 veterans and their families.
  • Creates a new system of community care, enabling veterans to have access to walk-in community clinics outside the VA system.
  • Incentivizes the use of telemedicine to help treat veterans.
  • Modernizes VA facilities and provides additional resources for the hiring of new doctors, nurses and staff.

Senator Alexander has supported additional legislation to help Tennessee’s veterans including:

  • Cosponsoring the Veterans Cemetery Benefit Correction Act, which will require the U.S. Department of the Interior to provide burial vaults for veterans buried in national cemeteries managed by the National Park Service, including Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in Greeneville, Tennessee. The bill passed in the Senate in March.
  • Voting to increase funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and improve accountability, including:

-          The Fiscal Year 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which provided over $70 billion in funding for healthcare for our nation’s veterans. It also provided $855 million for construction at VA hospitals and other facilities.

-          The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, which gives the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs more authority to fire, demote or suspend senior VA officials for misconduct and poor performance, and requires the Secretary to implement whistleblower protection training and update the program every two years. 

Alexander also greets Tennessee veterans on Honor Flights to Washington, D.C. You can see photos and videos of those events herehere and here.

Tennessee veterans can find resources here.