Milwaukee VA Medical Center
MISSION Act info sessions draw large audiences
Senior officials and administrators for Veterans Affairs solicited input and took questions about the new VA MISSION Act and its impact on health care for Veterans at three listening sessions at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.
The VA MISSION Act, which will consolidate VA’s multiple community care programs, including the expiring Veterans Choice Program, was signed into law by the president on June 6, 2018. The MISSION Act is scheduled to be implemented by June 6, 2019.
“The goal is to collect feedback and hear the concerns from these various stakeholder groups -- VHA employees, Veterans, Veterans Service Organizations, and congressional stakeholders,” said Dr. Gerard Cox, deputy undersecretary for health for organizational excellence. “We’re looking for the best ways are to get the word out and define a campaign that would be most effective.”
Cox, who served more than 30 years on active duty, was the primary presenter at each listening session in the Matousek Auditorium on Dec. 19. The first session was for VA employees, the second primarily for Veterans, and the third for staff members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation.
Several medical directors, administrators and staff from the VA Great Lakes Health Care System, or VISN 12, also were in attendance. VISN 12 includes a group of eight medical centers and almost 40 clinics in Illinois, Wisconsin, the upper peninsula of Michigan, and northwestern Indiana.
“I think this was critical,” said Dr. Daniel Zomchek, director of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. “I think it means a lot that VA Central Office decided to choose Milwaukee as one of the regional hubs, or locations, to get feedback.
“We have an incredibly involved community in the Milwaukee area that’s very supportive of Veterans,” Zomchek said. “They’ve very knowledgeable about things and want to have input.”
The presentation highlighted the four main pillars of the MISSION Act:
- Consolidate VA’s community care programs.
- Expanding the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to eligible Veterans of all eras.
- Provide VA the necessary flexibility to align its infrastructure footprint meet the needs of our nation’s Veterans.
- Strengthen VA’s ability to recruit and retain quality health care professionals.
Details of the act still are being finalized, which partly is why a series of listening sessions are being held across the country.
Each audience was asked if they had previously heard of the MISSION Act, and a large percentage indicated that they had. But, most also said they knew little about what the act entailed.
When asked to define in one word what they had heard about the MISSION Act, responses included, “skeptical, curious, worried, hopeful, and scary.” Many of the questions from the first two listening sessions dealt with any possible privatization of the VA, and how any proposed reforms and changes would affect the care of Veterans.
“Our first meeting was with the employees and the room was packed, which was really nice to see,” Zomchek said. “I think that shows how dedicated our staff is about learning what’s coming down the pike, and being on the cutting edge with VA, and what specifically the MISSION Act is all about.
“They were very engaged, as well,” Zomcheck said. “Lots of great questions, and the diversity of questions, all focused on the interest they had in Veteran care. Which is what I see every day, to be honest.”