NEW COMMUNITY ACCESS STANDARDS RELEASED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

(Washington, DC) The Independence Fund applauds the Department of Veterans Affairs on the release of the new Access Standards required by the VA health care reform legislation. The MISSION Act, which was enacted last year, determines Veteran access to non-VA community care when VA medical facilities fail to meet these Access Standards. The Independence Fund fully supports the VA for rolling out this regulation to implement the MISSION Act’s requirement for immediate community care access to walk-in health care.

“Access to community care alternatives is desperately needed for Veterans, catastrophically combat wounded Veterans, as well as their Caregivers and families,” said Sarah Verardo, CEO of The Independence Fund. “As a Caregiver to my husband who suffered catastrophic combat wounds in Afghanistan, I am grateful that the President has been unequivocal in his support for real VA choice – that Veterans should be empowered to be in charge of his or her own healthcare. This is a tremendous step in executing the President’s clear campaign promise.”

The new Access Standards and Community Care regulations will establish a basis for access to community care, namely an “in the best interest of the Veteran” standard. The Veteran and the health care provider will determine together if current access standards are inadequate for their special medical needs.  This is especially important for catastrophically disabled Veterans where generic access standards are still inadequate for them given the urgency of their medical issues.

With the release of these access standards and community care access rules, some have argued this is too broad of an expansion of the original Congressional intent of the MISSION Act community care provisions. The Independence Fund categorically rejects that characterization. The key sections of the MISSION Act related to community care are almost word for word the same as in the McCain-Moran Veterans Community Care and Access Act of 2017(S. 2184), which was fully debated in both Veterans Affairs Committees and within the broader Veterans community.  The National Military and Veterans Alliance wrote a letter to Congress in support of these operative sections of the McCain-Moran bill, and specifically talked about how member Veteran Service Organizations embraced the exact same type of access standards and community care access rules we see today.

The Independence Fund is pragmatic and remains willing to compromise to achieve these goals incrementally. But to argue even this is a bridge too far for what the MISSION Act originally envisioned is simply revisionist history and is rejected by The Independence Fund.

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Established in 2007, The Independence Fund is a national Veterans Service Organization dedicated to meeting the unmet needs of catastrophically combat wounded Veterans, Caregivers, and their Families through mobility programs, adaptive sports, advocacy, and Veteran suicide prevention.

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