MTPR

Veterans Choice

Billings Clinic in Billings, MT.
Courtesy Billings Clinic

The federal government’s big, new effort to allow veterans to use their VA health benefits to pay for healthcare from private doctors, clinics and hospitals launched Thursday. But the last effort went so badly in Montana that many are worried that the private sector won’t want to participate. That doesn’t appear to be happening, but the whole deal is still very much in pencil here.

The lobby of the Veterans Administration hospital at Ft Harrison in Helena
Eric Whitney

In one week Veterans are supposed to get improved access to healthcare in the private sector via the Mission Act, which Montana Senator Jon Tester wrote. But there are still some big unanswered questions about whether it will work.

The Mission Act is Congress’ second attempt since 2014 to make it easier for vets to use their benefits to pay for healthcare in the private sector if nearby VA facilities don’t offer what they need, or if they’d have to wait weeks to get it.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Montana Veterans are being invited to meetings to learn more about a new health care benefit this week and next.

The VA is hosting afternoon sessions on the Mission Act in Billings and Helena Thursday, in Missoula Friday and in Great Falls on June 4.

Senator Jon Tester speaks at a joint hearing of the House and Senate veterans committees on Wednesday. Dec. 19, 2018.
CSPAN screenshot

Sen. Jon Tester said he’s worried that the Veterans Health Administration is straying from the direction Congress gave it when it passed a bill six months ago to reform how vets get health care outside the VA system.

"We could end up with a problem where we’re actually cutting benefits for our veterans moving forward," said Tester at a joint hearing of the House and Senate veterans committees Wednesday

A bill to reform the troubled Veterans Choice health care program took a big step forward Wednesday.

Senator Jon Tester says it won bi-partisan support in the Veterans Affairs committee he sits on, and should now go to the Senate floor.

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