On June 6th of this year, President Trump signed a bill that significantly expands private health care options for veterans. The Mission Act helps ensure that veterans will have access to quality health care and other veteran benefits going forward.
The law marks a positive bipartisan agreement between politicians and veterans. While the spirit of this law is a definite “win” in terms of additional veteran benefits, the President has revealed he isn’t 100% satisfied with all of its details and provisions.
The Mission Act “Sweeping and Historic” For Veteran Benefits – If It Can Be Fully Funded
The administration sent Congress a memo separately outlining the objections to some of the funding measures for the new program. A ranking Democrat is predicting that these objections could be counterproductive to the Department of Veterans Affairs and what The Mission Act is seeking to accomplish.
The Mission Act effectively consolidates seven programs. This allows veterans to obtain “community” (private) health care that is vetted and coordinated by the Veterans Administration. An integrated network has been created for the department related to community care. This is bringing hiring incentives to healthcare professionals while also expanding an assistance program for veteran caregivers. These efforts are also creating an infrastructure and commission that will assist with finally modernizing VA facilities.The Mission Act effectively consolidates seven programs. This allows veterans to obtain “community” (private) health care that is vetted and coordinated by the Veterans Administration Click To Tweet
President Trump referred to The Mission Act as “sweeping and historic” during a ceremony in The Rose Garden. He pointed out that there has been nothing like it in the history of the VA and pledged not to rest until all the necessary changes for make much-needed improvements to veteran benefits were implemented.
Some Provisions May Infringe on Presidential Authority
However, the steps required for fully implementing The Mission Act are in question due to the administration’s opposition to some of the funding measures included. There are also signing statements in place from previous Presidents that are in opposition to some aspects of the act. This is causing some controversy, as proceeding with the law as written could be seen as not following current laws that were passed in Congress.
Carl Blake, the executive director for Paralyzed Veterans of America sees the act’s expectations as very clear, especially in terms of the review that will be conducted on VA infrastructure. He understands that the White House can’t ignore these laws as they strive to make positive changes to the VA. Steps will be taken to help the Administration to follow through in a way that honors current laws.
Carl Blake, the executive director for Paralyzed Veterans of America sees the act’s expectations as very clear, especially in terms of the review that will be conducted on VA infrastructure. He understands that the White House can’t ignore these laws as they strive to make positive changes to the VA.
A statement on the matter issued by President Trump outlined three provisions that infringe on presidential authority:
- One section describes a requirement by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to obtain approval from two congressional committee chairmen before expending over $50 million of appropriated funds within one fiscal year for some pilot programs.
- Another section of the act would require the President to consult with Congress regarding member appointment to the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission. While the President is willing to meet with Congress, having this be a requirement violates separation of powers and shouldn’t be mandatory.
- One section requires Federal agencies to make any required information available to the Commission so that it can effectively perform its duties. However, President Trump reserves the right to withhold items that might impair national security, foreign relations, the executive branch or the ability of the President to perform constitutional duties. However, ranking Democrat Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) of the House Veterans Affairs Committee sees this as a threat to the legislative branch from the White House. Rep. Walz takes issue with the limiting of Congressional oversight during the bill’s implementation phase.
Some veterans’ service organizations are also concerned. American Legion spokesman, Joe Plenzler, noted that their organization worked hard on the legislation with Congress and the administration and are looking forward to implementing it.
Garry Augustine of the Washington headquarters of Disabled American Veterans is also concerned. He speculates it might just be posturing and still hopes for positive outcomes.
The Goal is to Fund The Mission Act While Keeping Existing Veteran Benefits
The administration’s memo objects to a Senate proposal lifting discretionary spending caps for programs related to The Mission Act, stating this allows virtually unlimited spending increases for the program but without sufficient budget enforcement.
However, Rep. Walz disagrees, stating that current budget caps won’t sustain the new VA program without deep cuts to existing programs. These could include medical research, job training programs and suicide prevention initiatives.
As exciting as the prospect of The Mission Act is for new and important veteran benefits, it’s clear that some existing programs and benefits could be affected in terms of funding. If budget caps remain, The Mission Act may not bring the veteran benefits it had promised.
However, given President Trump’s track record of countless accomplishments and positive results achieved in just over 18 months in office, these issues could be resolved sooner than we might expect.