Washington, DC - “Memorial Day is our Nation’s solemn reminder that freedom is never free,” President Donald J. Trump wrote last year, proclaiming Memorial Day 2017 as a Day of Prayer for Permanent Peace. “It is a moment of collective reflection on the noble sacrifices of those who gave the last measure of devotion in service of our ideals and in the defense of our Nation.”
Memorial Day is an occasion for Americans to honor those who lost their lives in service to our country. As we do so, it is also a moment to consider how we can make life better for all of America’s heroes in uniform, including our veterans.
In the coming days, President Trump will take an important step toward correcting how the United States treats its veteran population. On May 23, the Senate followed the House of Representatives’ lead in passing the VA MISSION Act, a bill that will transform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) into a high-performing and integrated healthcare system for the 21st century. It accomplishes this goal by putting patient choice at the core of the VA program.
The final legislative package—which passed the Senate in an overwhelming 92-5 bipartisan vote—follows months of discussion among key Congressional leaders and the President to reach a strong compromise.
“Passing this legislation is another promise made and promise kept to America’s Veterans under President Trump’s leadership, which has provided the most substantial VA reform in a generation,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. President Trump expects to sign the bill into law soon after Memorial Day.
The VA MISSION Act achieves five important objectives for our Nation’s veterans:
- Consolidates and strengthens the VA’s community care programs;
- Funds the existing Veterans Choice program to ensure veterans continue to receive care through the Choice program until the new, consolidated Veterans Community Care Program takes effect;
- Creates new flexibilities to aid the VA in managing its infrastructure portfolio through an Asset and Infrastructure review process;
- Expands the Caregivers program to include eligible veterans from all eras of service;
- Strengthens the VA’s workforce.
These reforms come at a crucial moment. The Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs recently informed Congress that the VA expects funding for the current Choice program to be exhausted as early as the end of this month. To prevent disruptions to care, the Trump Administration had urged Congress to pass the bill by Memorial Day.
Although the VA MISSION Act represents a milestone in veterans care, the work is far from finished. “The Administration will continue implementing policies that transform and modernize the VA to better serve our nation’s heroes,” Press Secretary Sanders said.
President Trump also remains committed to broader healthcare reforms that improve the lives and well-being of all Americans, building on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate tax on working families.