U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx shared information about new federal laws intended to improve services for veterans while she was in Wilkesboro on Saturday.
Foxx spoke at an event celebrating the completion of a new specially designed home in western Wilkes County for disabled veteran Chance Cleary.
She said the MISSION Act community care program, which President Trump signed into law last year, began serving veterans nationwide on June 6. It replaced the Choice program.
Foxx said the program empowers veterans by expanding their ability to choose certain types of care in their home communities under certain circumstances, including:
• for primary care, mental health care or non-institutional care if they’re facing more than a 30-minute drive or more than a 20-day wait for this care at a Veterans Administration (VA) facility;
• for specialty care if they’re facing more than an hour-long drive or more than a 28-day wait for this care at a VA facility;
Foxx said it also enables veterans to seek treatment at certain urgent care facilities for treatment of pink eye, colds, strep throat, sprained ankles and other less serious issues.
“President Trump signed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act into law on June 25 to provide veterans who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam the disability compensation benefits they have earned,” she said.
These are veterans who served aboard Navy aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships in the territorial seas of Vietnam who fought for years to prove they were exposed to the chemical herbicide Agent Orange.
Although the act signed into law in late June made them eligible for these benefits, a lawsuit filed July 22 against VA Secretary Robert Wilkie says Wilkie didn’t have authority to delay processing the claims of tens of thousands of “Blue Water” Navy veterans until Jan. 1, 2020.
Foxx said seven other bills from the Veterans Affairs Committee were passed in the last congressional session.
These include the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act, which would permanently extend the VA’s Child Care Program and expand it across the VA healthcare system.
She said additional work is being done in the House Ways and Means Committee to allow veterans who return to work and no longer received disability cash benefits to maintain the TRICARE coverage they earned without having to retain Medicare Part B coverage.
“As this community well knows, we owe our military personnel and veterans a huge debt of gratitude,” said Foxx.
She said that ensuring that this debt is properly repaid is one of her top priorities in Congress. “I want everyone to know that if veterans ever experience a problem with the VA or another federal agency, my staff and I stand ready to provide the assistance needed.”