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US Senate passes VA Mission Act with Jones, Shelby support

BY CHIP BROWNLEE

Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted to pass the VA Mission Act of 2018 with the support of both senators from Alabama.

The bill passed in the House of Representatives last week and the Senate today by a vote of 92-5. It will now head to the president’s desk for his signature.

“I am honored to support this milestone legislation that prioritizes brave veterans in Alabama and across the nation,” Shelby said. “This bicameral, bipartisan bill provides veterans with necessary access to efficient, timely, and quality health care services. As Members of Congress, it is our job to ensure the proper care of those who have risked their lives to protect our freedoms.”

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, also announced his support over Twitter.

“Our veterans deserve to receive the benefits they and their families have sacrificed so much for and earned, but too often that isn’t happening when it comes to health care,” Jones wrote.

The legislation gives veterans the option of seeking care when and where it makes the most sense for their needs. The now passed bill combines provisions from fifteen different Senate-introduced bills, building upon the success of the Veterans Choice Act.

“The VA MISSION Act extends and makes permanent funding for the VA Choice Program that many veterans depend on to receive care.” Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, said. “You may have heard that Choice funding was set to expire at the end of May, and this bill prevents that from happening. In both densely populated and rural states alike, it can be very challenging for the VA medical centers to properly care for all veterans in a timely fashion, particularly when specialists are required. The Choice Program is an attempt to bridge this gap by allowing veterans to access private-sector care at VA expense if they have to wait longer than 30 days for a VA appointment or if they live more than 40 miles from a VA health care facility. It has been recorded that 550,000 veterans have used Choice so far this year, and in 2017, 14,790 Alabamians enrolled. Therefore, I am extremely glad that the House has taken action to ensure that this important program is funded.”

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Congressman Phil Roe, the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and author of the VA MISSION Act, said he believes a process free from bureaucratic politics is needed “to fix the massive and misaligned footprint” of the Veterans Administration.

“The bill directs President Trump to establish a team to review the current VA operations across the country and make recommendations about ways we can modernize, improve, and streamline facilities and the services they provide,” Roby said. “We can do better than this for our veterans, and I believe we will.”

The bill was named after Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain, the late Senator Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and U.S. Representative Sam Johnson, R-Texas, to recognize them for their impact and service.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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