VA Secretary David Shulkin has recommended numerous changes to how veterans are treated in the United States, and they pack a big impact for veterans in Mississippi.
Shulkin has told Congress that an increase in spending for veterans is imminent, and that certain reforms must be made.
One of which is eliminating the 40-mile, 30-day rule for non-VA care.
“Right now, there are eligibility requirements that deal with the distance the veteran may live from our clinic or hospital, and the number of days the person may have to wait,” said David Walker, Director for the Medical Center at the Sonny G. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson.
Walker added that lifting this stipulation would increase healthcare accessibility for veterans across the state.
“If we cannot provide the care, or if there’s a delay, then the veteran can go into the community and get the care,” said Walker.
Another reform suggestion from Shulkin is to extend the CHOICE Act, which was set to expire in August of this year. This would give veterans more power to choose their healthcare providers.
Walker said this would allow for the VA to serve more people.
“We’d continue to provide care here,” said Walker. “And into the community as well.”
Another eligibility requirement that would be lifted: VA care would no longer be denied to those who were discharged for any reason other than honorable discharge.
“Even if they got discharged from their service dishonorably, we still need to serve those veterans,” said Walker.
Walker added that with greater access to VA healthcare, and through telemedicine efforts, the veteran suicide rate would decrease.
Right now, 22 veterans a day take their own lives, according to the organization Mission 22.