President Donald Trump signed a bill Wednesday that will pave the way for a major overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs and expanded access for veterans to VA-funded care in the private sector, USA TODAY reported.
The VA Mission Act is a law that directs the VA to combine many existing private-care programs, including the Choice program, which was created in 2014 after veterans at the Phoenix VA died waiting for appointments.
Included in the bill is Congressman John Carter’s (TX-31) Veterans Transplant Coverage Act. The Act requires the VA to provide organ transplants to veterans from a live donor, regardless of if the donor is a veteran.
Prior to Carter’s legislation, the VA excluded non-veteran live donations from coverage under the VA Choice Program and forced veterans to receive their transplants at specific VA treatment facilities. For some veterans, many of the facilities were states away. The legislation also directs the VA to allow organ transplant operations in the facility of a veteran’s choice.
Carter’s Veterans Transplant Coverage Act was inspired by the story of Charles Nelson, a 100% service connected disabled veteran from Leander.
Nelson needed a kidney transplant in 2016 and his son, Coty, was a match donor. However, Nelson was denied coverage for surgery because Coty was not a veteran. The Nelson family were forced to fundraise and use Medicare for his operation as a result.
After hearing of the story, Carter said he immediately introduced the act which passed in the House in November 2017.
Carter said in a press release that the signing of the act marks a brighter future for America’s heroes.
“The VA Mission Act will greatly improve health care for our veterans, and my language within the legislation will ensure that no other veteran is ever denied life-saving transplant coverage because their organ donor is not a veteran,” Carter said. “This legislation is for Charles Nelson and his family, the 84,000 veterans in Texas’ 31st Congressional District, and the 22 million nationwide. Our veterans deserve to receive the health care they need without wading through bureaucratic red tape.”
President Trump pledged during his campaign to provide veterans with more non-VA health care choices. With overwhelming bipartisan support, both chambers passed the measure in May 2018.
"What a beautiful word that is -- choice -- and freedom to our amazing veterans," President Trump said at the signing ceremony. "All during the campaign I'd go out and say, 'why can't they just go see a doctor instead of standing in line for weeks and weeks and weeks?' Now they can go see a doctor."