Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said last week he is approaching this Friday as “just another day at VA” when hundreds of thousands of eligible veterans will be allowed to access taxpayer-funded private medical care.
On Friday the agency will implement a major part of the Mission Act, a focus of the administration’s expansive VA reform plan, which includes new rules that provide eligible veterans expanded community care options, according to a Military Times report.
“We do expect to be ready,” Wilkie said Friday on C-SPAN. “I’m confident that our team is ready across the country,” he added.
Under the new rules, veterans who live more than 30 minutes from a VA medical clinic or face a wait of more than 20 days for most health care appointments would be allowed to seek private care.
The rules replace current 40-mile, 30-day private care access restrictions. For specialty care, veterans would face a 60-minute distance or a 28-day wait.
The Mission Act was passed last summer but has since faced growing scrutiny from veterans groups who fear it could ultimately undermine existing VA services.
“The budget also calls for 390,000 employees,” Wilkie said. “We’re not in a pathway to privatization. If we are, we’re doing it in a strange way.”
The Mission Act also mandates a comprehensive review of department facilities, and overhauls the agency’s caregiver payout system.
Photo provided by Dept. of  Veterans Affairs