Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley pressed the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie regarding the new Veterans Community Care Program on Wednesday.

A release from the Senators said they asked him to “not repeat the same mistakes of the Veterans Choice Program”, when establishing the new program.

The release said the Congress passed the VA Mission Act in 2018 to strengthen VA Community Care programming, after “critical” issues within the program. “jeopardized the quality of veterans’ care”.

In a letter to Secretary Wilkie, the Senators wrote that “we believe strongly that veterans should spend their time getting good health care rather than driving to it, especially in states like Oregon where many veterans living in rural areas are underserved”. The letter said that VA facilities have decades of experience serving veterans and offer “unmatched specialty care and services”. However, they said that “special interests continue to push to outsource or privatize aspects of veterans care”.

The letter concluded asking Secretary Wilkie to implement the VA Mission Act based “on the principal that community care must never come at the expense of VA’s core functions”.

The release said the Government Accountability Office released a report two months ago that identified three fundamental problems with the Veterans Choice Program. Those were complex referral and appointment scheduling processes, incomplete and unreliable data on the timeliness of veterans’ access to care, and a lack of timely prepayments to community providers.