By Ryan Yuhas, Director of Federal Government Relations at UPMC\nSoon an estimated 640,000 veterans in the United States will be eligible to receive much-needed private care outside of the Veterans Administration (VA) system, thanks to the\u00a0VA Mission Act, a new bill signed into law on June 6, 2018.\nVisit\u00a0Programs for Veterans at UPMC\u00a0for more information about how UPMC supports our community\u2019s veterans.\n \r\n \r\n Subscribe to get more information on health care policy and how it impacts you \r\n \r\n Enter your email to subscribe\r\n \r\n \r\n\t \r\n \r\n Sign Up \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n I understand that by providing my email address, I agree to receive emails from UPMC. I understand that I may opt out of receiving such communications at any time.\r\n \r\n \r\n \nWhat Is the VA Mission Act and How Is It Different from the Veterans Choice Program?\nBefore being signed into law, both the U.S. House and Senate passed the bill with overwhelming majorities and strong bipartisan support.\nThe VA Mission Act expands on the Veterans Choice Program and six other programs to provide $55 billion in funding over a five-year period to make it easier for veterans to get care outside of the VA system.\nThe Veterans Choice Program was created in 2014 to improve health care for veterans by allowing them to get private health care in those communities where VA coverage and care was not available. However, this expanded private care was offered only to patients who lived more than 40 miles from a VA facility or with appointment wait times of more than 30 days.\nHow the VA Mission Act Will Improve Veterans\u2019 Health Care\nSo, what is the significant of the VA Mission Act? Currently, more than a million veterans rely on the Veterans Choice Program to access private care that they cannot get through the VA health system. The VA Mission Act expands that care, offering an additional 640,000 veterans private benefits not previously available through the VA or the Veterans Choice Act, according to the\u00a0Congressional Budget Office.\nUnder the new VA Mission Act, veterans can seek private medical care outside of the VA system at their doctor\u2019s discretion. VA facility distance and wait times will be considered, and reimbursement for private care will be simpler. Private care also will be an option for those whose closest VA hospital is found to be inadequate or deficient. If requested by the primary care provider, the program will authorize veterans who require an organ or bone marrow transplant to receive care at a nearby federally certified transplant center.\nAdditionally, pre-9\/11 veterans will be eligible for caregiver stipends if they incurred a serious injury in the line of duty after May 7, 1975. This benefit was previously available only to post-9\/11 veterans.\nThe act also creates a task force charged with reviewing the VA\u2019s complex and underutilized infrastructure. The commission will review VA facilities, make necessary repairs, close hospitals that are not adequately meeting veteran needs, and provide funding for private facilities to treat veterans.\nThe Future of Health Care for Veterans\nThe VA Mission Act stands to make a crucial impact on the\u00a0quality of health care available\u00a0to veterans. By allowing veterans to seek care in their own communities when the VA is unable to deliver, the act puts veterans and their doctors in charge of their health.\nIn 2017, nearly 30,000 veterans in Pennsylvania relied on the Veterans Choice Program for care. The VA Mission Act expands that care to more veterans in Pennsylvania and across the country.\nVisit\u00a0Programs for Veterans at UPMC\u00a0for more information about how UPMC supports our community\u2019s veterans.