From left to right: Mervyn Jones, REP. Mark Takano (D-CA), and Bob Carey

The Independence Fund proudly supports the Administration’s agenda for expanding the ability of individual Veterans to choose their own healthcare providers. As the President said during his campaign, “We are going to ensure every Veteran in America has the choice to seek care at the VA, or to seek private medical care paid for by our government.” And since then, the President has told Congressional negotiators multiple times to go back to the drawing table and put even more opportunity for individual Veteran choice in the recently enacted MISSION Act.

The MISSION Act represents the best possible opportunity for providing Veterans with greater individual choice with their medical providers. The regulations to make that choice a reality, are being drafted now and must be finalized by June of this year. Yet, before the new regulation has even been proposed…there are some in the Veteran community who are already calling for the choice provisions of the MISSION Act to be rolled back, or even repealed.

That would be a huge mistake.

Some will try to say the issue of giving Veterans greater choice is a conservative versus liberal, or Republican versus Democrat issue.

It is not.

It is a generational issue, one that crosses philosophical or partisan lines, and strikes at the very heart of what younger Veterans believe is their due for the disabilities they sustained in defense of their country.

Mervyn Jones is The Independence Fund’s new Director of Government Relations. Mervyn is engaged to a medically retired Army veteran who had to visit the VA emergency room four times over the holidays. Having to drive more than 45 minutes, each way, in heavy Washington, DC traffic, Mervyn and his fiancée drove past non-VA emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, and specialists in order to go to the Washington, DC VA Medical Center. And what awaited them once they got there? “Surly staff, inept scheduling, and broken appointments,” said Mervyn. “We actually showed the staff the document ordering the urgent appointment, but since it wasn’t on their computer screen, they turned us away from the urgent procedure her doctor prescribed.”

Mervyn is no Republican shill, bent on privatization. His mother was a Democratic Congresswoman from Ohio, he worked on the staff of Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley, and assisted the Democratic Members of the Congressional Black Caucus. But as Mervyn says, “My fiancée has no choice – right now – but to accept this treatment from the VA.”

On January 3rd, leadership of the House of Representatives shifted from the Republicans to the Democrats, and with it the leadership of all Congressional Committees, like the House Veterans Affairs Committee. And on January 3rd, The Independence Fund was on Capitol Hill in force carrying the messages of the latest generation of Veterans – conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat – that they need something different! We can’t have the same old “status quo” from entrenched VA bureaucrats tangled up in mindless VA red-tape.

We took that message to the new Democratic leadership including Rep. Takano (D-CA), the new chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Freshman member, and retired Navy Commander, Elaine Luria (D-VA) who wants to serve on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and lead Democratic Senator on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). We also met Senate Democratic Leaders, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

We will continue to strongly support this President’s demands for giving Veterans more choices in their health care provider. And to achieve that, we will work with ALL Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat alike, to ensure that happens.