Trump extends private-sector health care program for vets

Kari Scott
April 20, 2017

President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation to extend temporarily a program that gives veterans access to private-sector health care.

"I am pleased to sign into law the Veteran's Choice Program Improvement Act", Trump stated at the White House.

The law allows the program to continue until funding expires, likely next year, buying time for VA Secretary David Shulkin to determine a reform philosophy and strategy for the VA.

The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which became law in August 2014, established the Veterans Choice Program, giving veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility or are forced to wait more than 30 days for an appointment the option to receive healthcare from a local community provider.

Extension of the "Veterans Choice" program could worry Democrats and other critics that Trump and Shulkin are inching toward sending some of the $65.6 billion the department spends annually on medical care to corporations and private businesses.

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VA has made a variety of support services available to caregivers of veterans in recent years, but the most significant change is a monthly stipend awarded to some severely disabled veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"Our number one priority is getting veterans' access to care when and where they need it", said Baligh Yehia, the VA's deputy undersecretary for health for community care.

Reform is on the way to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, as Trump signed a new executive order this morning.

Trump and Tester say the bill makes it less hard for veterans to get care. In the wake of the awful scandal in care at the Phoenix VA and VA hospitals around the country, we made a promise that our veterans would never again be forced to face unacceptable wait-times for appointments, or drive unreasonable distances, to get the care they need. Of the many veterans surveyed about the facility, 61% expressed their disappointment in obtaining an appointment for urgent primary care. He said more work is needed, but called the legislation "an important first step". Shulkin said last month that the looming expiration had already been affecting veterans' appointments in cases when they were scheduling procedures months in advance.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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