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senate Bill S. 1656

Should the Implementation Date for New Non-VA Healthcare Access Standards be Extended?

Argument in favor

The VA isn’t prepared to implement the MISSION Act access standards. Extending the deadline for the MISSION Act standards’ rollout will give the VA adequate time to ensure it can meet the new standards. A minor delay in implementing the new non-VA healthcare access standards is worth it to ensure the new standards are implemented correctly and that the VA and care facilities are adequately prepared.

Argument opposed

The VA should implement the MISSION Act access standards as soon as possible to ensure that veterans continue to receive high-quality care in community settings. There’s no reason to delay the new non-VA healthcare access standards’ rollout, as doing so will only jeopardize veterans’ access to care. Even if there are minor bumps in rolling the new standards out, Congress and the VA can work out those issues as they arise.

bill Progress

  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Veterans' Affairs
    IntroducedMay 23rd, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. 1656?

This bill — the VA SNAFU Act — would extend the implementation date for new non-VA healthcare access standards under the VA MISSION Act of 2018 to until all market assessments are completed. Additionally, this bill would automatically enroll veterans who have been exposed to toxic airborne chemicals or stationed near open burn pits into the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry unless they choose to opt out.

This bill’s full title is the Veterans Affairs Saving Network Appointments From Upheaval Act.


Veterans; the VA; non-VA healthcare access standards; market assessments for new non-VA healthcare access standards; and the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 1656

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced this bill to delay the implementation of new access standards for non-VA healthcare providers

“Our Veterans deserve quality, affordable, and accessible healthcare, but the VA readiness to implement the MISSION Act access standards ensure just the opposite. VA Secretary Wilkie has testified that the MISSION Act could be the driver of ‘transformation not seen since WWII’ when General Omar Bradley headed the Veterans Administration. However, adopting new access standards prematurely could result in a significant setback in Veterans’ confidence in the VA, much like the rushed implementation of the Choice Act. We should be learning from past mistakes, not repeating them. General George S. Patton once said, ‘A pint of sweat is worth a gallon of blood’. In other words, preparation, planning, and testing saves lives, and this bill gives the VA more time to do just that. When we can’t inform Veterans of the quality of community care, Veterans from rural states like West Virginia will be harmed the most. I hope that my colleagues will join me in passing this legislation to support our Veterans by ensuring their access to quality healthcare.”

Original cosponsor Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) adds

“The men and women who wore the uniform of the United States have earned the benefits they were promised. Our legislation seeks to make sure the transition from the Veterans Choice Program to the Veterans Community Care Program, as outlined in the VA MISSION Act, does not adversely impact veterans. The VA must continue to provide care and services to eligible veterans throughout the transition period. Our bill also automatically enrolls veterans exposed to toxic airborne chemicals or stationed near open burn pits into the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless they choose to opt out. This will make it easier for those veterans to receive adequate care and updates pertinent to them in a timely manner. Our nation’s veterans served our country and we owe it to them to make sure they are properly taken care of.”

This legislation has one cosponsor, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD).

Of NoteOn June 6, 2018, as directed by the VA Mission Act of 2018, new access standards for non-VA healthcare practitioners took effect. This bill made dramatic changes to how veterans receive community care (defined as healthcare provided outside of VA). The VA Mission Act’s major provisions are:

  • Continuing to give veterans access to community care under current programs, and then transitioning them to the new program when regulations are final and published.
  • Implementing an improved process for veterans to receive community care, with better access to community providers and improvements in customer service (such as more streamlined eligibility requirements).
  • A new benefit giving eligible veterans access to urgent, non-emergency care for non-life-threatening conditions in VA’s network of community providers.
  • Improved care coordination as VA transitions to a single information technology system better linking together VA and community providers.
  • Implementation of better claims processing systems for providers to receive timely payments for bills.

Sens. Manchin and Rounds introduced this bill over concerns that the VA hasn’t taken enough time to properly plan and prepare its staff, systems, and community networks for the implementation of the proposed access standards. Specifically, when they introduced this bill in early June 2019, the senators worried that the market assessments of community care providers which were designed to ensure that the system was ready for the transition were only just beginning. Because of this, the senators worried that the VA might not be able to certify and tell veterans whether community providers across the country would be able to provide care of comparable or better quality than VA facilities.


Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: / Drazen Zigic)



Official Title

A bill to modify the transition period between care and services provided under the Veterans Choice Program and care and services provided under the Veterans Community Care Program, and for other purposes.

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