Senate passes VA MISSION Act, raising concerns of privatization

The VA MISSION Act is expected to be signed by the president after passing the Senate this week. (vadimguzhva)

The VA MISSION Act will head to the president's desk where it is expected to be signed after passing the Senate on Wednesday.

The bipartisan bill, which passed by a vote of 92-5, was unveiled in the lower chamber earlier this month and would allow veterans to seek care outside of the VA health system if their physicians agree it's best or if it would be hard for them to reach a VA facility.  Republicans indicated they wanted to make sure the bill was passed by Memorial Day.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the legislation quickly. A statement from the White House called the VA MISSION Act "an important piece of legislation that will transform the Department of Veterans Affairs into a high-performing and integrated healthcare system for the 21st century and provide Veterans with more Choice in their healthcare options, whether from VA doctors or from the community."

The $55 million reform bill would, among other things, change where veterans can receive care, create hiring incentives to bring on more VA healthcare providers and establish a commission to examine the VA's aging infrastructure.

RELATED: Veterans Choice reform bill heads to Senate

The bill praise from top veterans organizations.

“The VA MISSION Act helps provide veterans with the care they earned and deserve," said Keith Harman, national commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and its auxiliary. "It helps improve the VA health care system while relying on the private sector when needed, striking the right balance in order to make sure veterans have the best care possible.”

But while it was lauded by some as a win for veterans, it was also heavily criticized by others due to concerns over privatization.

RELATED: House reveals compromise plan to overhaul Veterans Choice program

"We are gravely concerned about the passage of the VA MISSION Act due to the creation a corporate-style, private board that will make decisions about how and when they'd like to dismantle any VA facility in the country," said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. "Congress is punting on their responsibility to care for the men and women who have served our country and are taking an extremely dangerous step toward privatization."