VA MISSION Act expands caregiver assistance to pre-9/11 veterans

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Historic veterans legislation signed into law is a big win for veterans and their caregivers

On June 6, 2018, following years of debate, collaboration and finally compromise, President Donald Trump signed into law historic veterans legislation that will expand the eligibility for the VA comprehensive caregiver program to veterans catastrophically injured before Sept. 11, 2001. The John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018, referred to as the VA MISSION Act, will also strengthen VA health care and consolidate VA community care programs, provide supplemental funding to continue the current Choice Program for another year, give the VA new tools to hire and retain quality health care professionals, and develop a long-term plan to realign and modernize the VA’s health care infrastructure.

The bill signing ceremony—held in the White House Rose Garden—was attended by representatives from a number of veterans service organizations, including DAV.

“No matter when you served or where you fought, if at some point you were in that uniform, then you deserve our absolute best,” Trump said at the ceremony.

“DAV has long advocated for extending comprehensive caregiver benefits to veterans injured and made ill prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and the VA MISSION Act takes major strides to close that gap and provide equity to thousands of family caregivers,” said DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine. “This legislation also provides VA with the tools and road map to expand access, improve quality and sustain VA health care for millions of veterans. It was an honor to stand up on behalf of our organization as the president signed this monumental bill into law.”

The VA MISSION Act was introduced by Rep. Phil Roe, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC), in agreement with Sens. Johnny Isakson and Jon Tester, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, respectively. DAV and other major veterans service organizations worked closely with both committees in reaching the final compromise and submitted a joint letter of support signed by 38 veterans organizations and stakeholders.

The bill passed the HVAC May 8 by a vote of 20 to 2, was approved by the full House with a vote of 347 to 70 May 16, and was passed by the full Senate May 23 by a vote of 92 to 5.

DAV National Commander Delphine Metcalf-Foster, a former caregiver, applauded the new law: “With the signing of the VA MISSION Act, we are now one step closer to ensuring no veteran or caregiver will be left behind again.”