Rep. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-VA-10) used the tail end of her Congressional summer recess to check in with local veterans and community groups on the impact of new legislation that is intended
The VA MISSION Act was almost 100 days old as of the Sept. 6 meeting between Wexton and representatives of several local veterans’ organizations, held at the Ida Lee Park Recreation Center in Leesburg. The legislation took effect in early June with the intention of linking veterans up with better access to health care and mental health services at both the veterans administration hospital system and with local community providers.
The acts full title is the John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018.
Wexton noted the growing and aging veteran population, particularly in Loudoun County, and said many veterans and even medical providers are not yet aware of the new opportunities available to them with the VA MISSION Act.
Xavier Teasley, a health system specialist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, said wait times for appointments for veterans have gone down drastically since the implementation of the act. Some vets were having to wait a month or more for primary care or mental health services but now instead they can be connected with community providers who are able to see them more quickly and lessen the backlog. Another major component of the act is connecting veterans to providers via telehealth.
Michael Ball with Serving Together applauded the veterans administration for getting the word out to veterans about the opportunities available to them with the new act, but said providers needed better outreach and education, particularly providers in more rural areas.
The shortage of community mental health providers remains a major challenge, Teasley said. Wexton noted, as September is Suicide Prevention Month, that suicide is a growing problem in the veteran community.
Teasley emphasized that the website for the VA Mission Act is updated daily and encouraged veterans group representatives to familiarize their membership with its offerings. For more information about the act, visit missionact.va.gov.