Learn About Our Walk-In Process

Navigating the MISSION Act Community Care Program to Pay for Rehab

Written by The Recovery Village

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Kevin Wandler, MD

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Editorial Policy

Last Updated - 07/07/2024

View our editorial policy
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available. Speak with a Recovery Advocate by calling 561-340-7269 now.

Updated 07/07/2024

Key Takeaways

  • The MISSION Act improves veterans’ healthcare by consolidating community care programs and expanding eligibility.
  • Veterans can access healthcare from community providers if they meet certain eligibility criteria, including VA approval.
  • Eligibility for the Community Care Program requires enrollment in VA healthcare or eligibility without enrollment.
  • Rehab coverage under the MISSION Act requires meeting specific criteria, including the 40-mile criterion from the Veterans Choice Program.
  • To apply for community care, veterans must confirm eligibility, schedule a VA appointment, and receive authorization.
  • Essential documentation includes proof of enrollment in VA healthcare and evidence of meeting the Veterans Choice Program’s 40-mile criterion.
  • The MISSION Act covers both inpatient and outpatient rehab services, with eligibility determined by the VA.
  • Payment for community care services is processed by the VA or through third-party administrators after VA authorization.
  • Veterans facing denials or payment issues can seek assistance through VA resources, appeals, or VSOs.
  • Support resources for veterans include the Community Care Network, fact sheets, and assistance with appointment scheduling.

Overview of the MISSION Act and Its Impact on Veterans’ Healthcare

The Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act, enacted in 2018, is a pivotal piece of legislation aimed at improving healthcare services for United States veterans. Its primary purpose is to streamline veterans’ access to healthcare, both within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) network and with community care providers. The MISSION Act has several key components designed to enhance the overall healthcare system for veterans.

  • Consolidation of Community Care Programs: The MISSION Act consolidates the VA’s various community care programs into a single, cohesive system, simplifying the process for veterans seeking care outside the VA network.
  • Expanded Eligibility: The Act expands eligibility for the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, providing crucial support for veterans and their caregivers.
  • Improved Provider Recruitment: Efforts to recruit and retain top medical providers have been bolstered under the MISSION Act, ensuring veterans receive high-quality care.
  • Infrastructure Enhancements: The Act also focuses on strengthening the VA’s infrastructure, ensuring that facilities and technology are up-to-date and capable of delivering superior care.
  • Urgent Care Benefit: A new urgent care benefit allows veterans to receive immediate care for minor injuries and illnesses without prior authorization from the VA.

Overall, the MISSION Act represents a significant investment in the health and well-being of America’s veterans, addressing long-standing issues in the VA healthcare system and aiming to provide timely, comprehensive, and high-quality care.

Expanding Veteran Healthcare Through the MISSION Act and Community Care

The MISSION Act, officially known as the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act, represents a transformative piece of legislation designed to overhaul and improve healthcare options for veterans. One of the key components of the MISSION Act is the enhancement of the Community Care Program, which allows eligible veterans to access healthcare services from civilian providers within their communities. This initiative was built upon the foundation of the Veterans Choice Program, aiming to provide more timely and convenient healthcare access for veterans.

Key Enhancements of the MISSION Act

The MISSION Act strives to strengthen the VA’s healthcare system by offering veterans more flexibility in healthcare choices. 

  • According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, it simplifies the process for veterans to find a network community provider, schedule appointments, and receive high-quality care. This approach is particularly beneficial when VA care is not readily available or in cases where waiting times at VA facilities are protracted.
  • Under the MISSION Act, community care is predicated on specific eligibility criteria, which include the necessity of VA approval before obtaining care from a community provider. It also requires that veterans either be enrolled in VA healthcare or be eligible for VA care without enrollment. 
  • The Act consolidates VA’s community care programs, enhances the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, and improves the recruitment and retention of medical providers.

Implemented on June 6, 2019, the Community Care Program under the MISSION Act signifies a commitment to ensuring that veterans receive the care they need, when and where they need it, by bridging the gap between VA facilities and community providers.

Eligibility for the MISSION Act Community Care Program

The MISSION Act Community Care Program provides veterans with expanded healthcare options outside the traditional VA system. Understanding the eligibility criteria is essential for veterans seeking to utilize this program for their healthcare needs, including rehab services. To be eligible, veterans must meet certain conditions:

  • Veterans need to be either enrolled in VA healthcare or eligible for VA care without the requirement to enroll.
  • Approval from the VA is generally required before receiving care from a community provider.
  • Eligibility is also determined based on specific factors, such as the availability of services at VA facilities and the veteran’s residence in relation to VA medical facilities.
  • In certain situations, the VA may provide care in the community even if the veteran does not meet the standard eligibility criteria.

For veterans, the official VA guidelines outline six criteria for eligibility under the MISSION Act. These include needing a service not offered by any VA facility or residing in a US state or territory without a full-service VA medical facility. Additionally, with the sunset of the Veterans Choice Program, veterans must consult with their VA care team or local VA facility staff about their current eligibility for community care. The MISSION Act has made it easier for eligible veterans to find community providers, schedule appointments, and access quality care promptly.

Rehab Coverage Requirements Under the MISSION Act

The VA MISSION Act, which replaced the Veterans Choice Program (VCP), outlines specific requirements for veterans seeking rehab coverage through the Community Care Program. To qualify, veterans must meet certain criteria, which include:

  • Veterans must have been eligible for the VCP based on the 40-mile criterion on the day before the MISSION Act was enacted (June 6, 2018).
  • They must continue to reside in a location that meets the 40-mile criterion.
  • The MISSION Act has amended the VCP to benefit more veterans by modifying the distance calculation from miles to driving time and reducing the wait time threshold for care.
  • Eligibility is also determined based on the veteran’s unique health needs and circumstances, requiring approval from the VA before receiving community care.
  • Veterans must first make an appointment with the VA to assess eligibility and, if authorized, can then select an approved community care provider or receive assistance from VA staff to do so.

Once these requirements are met, veterans may have access to a range of addiction treatments under the Community Care Program. It is crucial for veterans to initiate the process by contacting the VA to verify their eligibility and understand the coverage specifics for both inpatient and outpatient rehab services.

Step-by-Step Guide: Applying for the MISSION Act Community Care Program

The MISSION Act Community Care Program offers veterans the ability to access healthcare services from community providers under certain conditions. To apply for this program, follow these essential steps:

  1. Confirm Eligibility: Veterans must first ensure they meet the eligibility criteria, which typically involves being enrolled in VA health care or being eligible without enrollment. Approval from the VA is required before obtaining community care.
  2. VA Appointment: Schedule an appointment with the VA. During this appointment, the VA will determine your eligibility for community care.
  3. Authorization: If deemed eligible, you will receive authorization for community care.
  4. Find an Approved Provider: Search for an approved community provider within the VA’s network. The VA staff can assist in this process.
  5. Schedule an Appointment: Once an approved provider is selected, schedule your appointment and inform the VA. The VA will then send the necessary referral to both you and the provider.
  6. Contact the VA for Assistance: If you need further information or assistance with the process, you can call or chat with the VA. This support is crucial for veterans who may have lived more than 40 miles from the nearest full-service VA facility on June 6, 2018, and still meet this requirement.

For a comprehensive understanding of the application process and eligibility, veterans are encouraged to review the resources provided by the VA, including the Veteran Community Care Eligibility fact sheet and the Community Care section on the VA website.

Essential Documentation for MISSION Act Community Care Program Application

When applying for the MISSION Act Community Care Program, veterans must provide specific documentation to establish eligibility and facilitate access to care. The foundational requirement is that the veteran must be enrolled in the VA healthcare system or meet certain criteria to receive care despite not being enrolled. Here is a list of necessary documents and criteria:

  • Proof of enrollment in the VA healthcare system under 38 C.F.R. § 17.36, or documentation meeting the criteria for receiving care under 38 C.F.R. § 17.37(a)-(c).
  • Evidence that the veteran was eligible under the 40-mile criterion of the Veterans Choice Program as of June 6, 2018, and continues to reside in a qualifying location.
  • Confirmation that the veteran requires a service that is not available at a VA facility as part of the eligibility criteria for the Veterans Community Care Program.
  • Approval from the VA before obtaining care from a community provider, indicating that the veteran has been deemed eligible for the Community Care Program.

It’s important for veterans to gather these documents before applying to ensure a smooth application process for the Community Care Program under the MISSION Act. For more detailed information on eligibility and documentation requirements, veterans can refer to the VHA Notice 2022-xx and the eCFR 38 CFR Part 17.

Rehab Treatment Coverage Under the MISSION Act Community Care Program

The MISSION Act Community Care Program significantly enhances healthcare options for veterans, including access to rehabilitation treatments. The program allows eligible veterans to receive care from community providers in the VA’s network, covering a range of services that may not be available through VA facilities. This includes treatment for substance misuse and co-occurring disorders such as PTSD, which is critical for veterans’ recovery and well-being.

Coverage of Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab Services for Veterans

Under the MISSION Act, veterans can access both inpatient and outpatient rehab services. The program aims to provide timely and high-quality care, streamlining the process for veterans to find and schedule appointments with community providers. 

Eligibility for Rehab Coverage

The eligibility for rehab coverage is determined through an assessment at a VA facility, where the need for community care is evaluated based on specific criteria, such as the distance from VA services and wait times for care.

How to Seek Treatment from Approved Providers

Once authorized for community care, veterans can seek treatment from approved providers, with the VA facilitating referrals and ensuring that the necessary documentation is in place. The program’s expansion from the previous Veterans Choice Program includes improved processes for accessing care, with an emphasis on reducing bureaucratic hurdles and improving the overall healthcare experience for veterans.

For additional information or to start the process, veterans are encouraged to contact the VA directly. The MISSION Act underscores the commitment to providing veterans with comprehensive healthcare options, recognizing the unique challenges faced by those who have served.

Comparing Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab Coverage Under the MISSION Act

The MISSION Act Community Care Program significantly enhances healthcare options for veterans, including coverage for both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services. Under this program, veterans who meet specific eligibility criteria can access a wide range of treatments for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions from community providers outside the VA network. 

A key aspect of the MISSION Act is the flexibility it offers veterans in choosing the most suitable form of rehab based on their individual health needs and circumstances.

Inpatient Rehab Services

Inpatient rehab services, which involve residential treatment where veterans stay at a facility for the duration of their program, are covered under the MISSION Act for those who require intensive, structured support. 

Outpatient Rehab Services

Outpatient services, which allow veterans to live at home while attending treatment sessions, are also covered, providing a less disruptive option for those with commitments or a stable home environment. 

The choice between inpatient and outpatient care is contingent upon the veteran’s specific health needs, with the goal of providing the most effective treatment for their recovery journey.

It is important for veterans to first get authorization from the VA before seeking community care. The VA will assess eligibility based on factors such as capacity at VA facilities, specific health care needs, and the urgency of treatment. Once authorized, veterans can select from approved providers within the Community Care Network. The MISSION Act’s commitment to expanding access to care ensures that veterans receive appropriate treatment, whether it is within a VA facility or through a community provider.

The Payment Process Under the MISSION Act Community Care Program

The MISSION Act Community Care Program facilitates veterans’ access to healthcare services through community providers, especially when services are not readily available through VA facilities. Understanding the payment process is crucial for veterans seeking rehab services under this program. 

  1. Eligibility Confirmation: Eligibility must be confirmed by the VA, which involves approval before care can be sought from community providers. 
  2. Provider Selection: Once eligibility is established and authorization granted, veterans can select an approved provider with the help of VA staff or independently. 
  3. Claims Filing: Depending on the referral source, providers may file claims for services rendered directly with the VA or through third-party administrators like TriWest Healthcare Alliance or Optum United Health Care.

Financial management and oversight of the program have evolved, with the VA’s Office of Finance now handling financial functions and merging program operations with the Office of Veterans Access to Care. This realignment aims to streamline services and ensure efficient processing of payments. The program has seen a significant increase in spending due to its expansion, with VA community care expenditures rising from $10.1 billion in FY 2017 to $21.8 billion in FY 2021, indicating a growing reliance on community care options.

For veterans, it is essential to notify the VA once an appointment with a community provider is scheduled, as this triggers the referral and payment process. In the event of any payment issues or denials, veterans should contact the VA for assistance and guidance on resolving these matters. The VA provides resources to support veterans through the payment process, ensuring they receive the care they need without undue financial burden.

Handling Denials and Payment Challenges Under the MISSION Act

Veterans navigating the MISSION Act Community Care Program may encounter denials or payment issues when seeking rehab coverage. It’s essential to understand the steps to address these challenges effectively. 

  1. Verify Eligibility: Contact the VA Community Care phone number at 877-881-7618 before making any non-VA appointments. 
  2. Review Denial: If you face a denial, review the VA’s decision carefully. Misunderstandings or errors in your application can often be resolved by providing additional information or clarification.
  3. File an Appeal: If the issue persists, you can file an appeal. The VA provides resources to guide you through the appeals process, and you may also seek assistance from a VA-accredited representative. 
  4. Consult Fact Sheets: For payment issues, consult the VA’s fact sheets on Billing and Payment and Adverse Credit Reporting, which offer valuable information on coping with financial discrepancies stemming from VA healthcare services. 
  5. Keep Records: Keep detailed records of your healthcare services, communications with providers, and any correspondence with the VA.

For additional support, the VA’s customer service can offer guidance, and local Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) can provide advocacy and support. Remember, the VA MISSION Act aims to improve access to timely, high-quality care, and there are mechanisms in place to help veterans navigate these systems.

Support and Resources for Veterans Under the MISSION Act

Veterans seeking assistance with the MISSION Act Community Care Program have access to various resources designed to facilitate understanding and navigation of the program. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers several avenues of support:

Additionally, veterans can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 988 and press 1 for immediate assistance. For more comprehensive support, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and various veterans’ service organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) offer advocacy and legislative updates on community care programs.

Addiction Recovery for Veterans Is Possible at The Recovery Village at Baptist Health

The Recovery Village at Baptist Health is an industry-leading treatment provider for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Our clinicians are specially trained in trauma-informed care, military culture and treating veteran-specific addiction and mental health needs. We’re also proud members of the VA Community Care Network, so we can accept VA health benefits as payment at no cost to the veteran.If you’re a veteran struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, our physician-led, private rehab program could be your path to recovery. Call us today and request a specialized Veteran Advocate to assist you.