President Donald Trump signed a bill Wednesday to temporarily extend a program that lets some veterans seek medical care in the private sector, part of an effort by the president to deliver on a campaign promise. More information on how the VA is changing coming in the next week or so.
President Signs Bill to Extend Veteran’s Choice Health Care Law
Department of Defense
By Terri Moon Cronk
WASHINGTON, April 20, 2017 — President Donald J. Trump signed the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act on April 18, so military veterans can continue receiving health care in the civilian sector when care is not easily accessible from a Veterans Affairs Department provider.
“The veterans have poured out their sweat and blood and tears for this country for so long, and it’s time that they’re recognized, and it’s time that we now take care of them, and take care of them properly,” Trump said after signing the continued health care bill into law in the Roosevelt Room.
“This bill will extend and improve the Veterans Choice Program so that more veterans can see the doctor of their choice … and don’t have to wait and travel long distances for VA care. Some people have to travel five hours, eight hours, and they’ll have to do it on a weekly basis, and even worse than that. It’s not going to happen anymore,” he said.
“This new law is a good start, but there is still much work to do,” Trump said. “We will fight each and every day to deliver the long-awaited reforms our veterans deserve, and to protect those who have so courageously protected each and every one of us.”
This was a bill that Obama put forward in 2014 to help veterans get care for some medical issues outside a VA hospital. It had a sunset of August 2017. That is why this particular bill by Trump was signed but it is only to temporarily extend the program to operate until all of the money in the Veterans Choice Fund is expended. As he noted above though, it is to be followed in a week or so by a press meeting to outline ways the new administration hopes to improve and assist all veterans. While not exactly a new thought, this bill does allow that all the money already allocated be used for the express purpose of this assistance.
The Choice Act allocated $10 billion to be used for this short term pilot program. The fact sheet on the VA.gov site has more data and information if interested. I didn’t scan carefully for how much had been used or any other details but others may be more involved and interested. Nor was I able to find what would have happened to the funds that were not used at the sunset date.
This is one step forward in continuing to do better. I really am hopeful and encouraged that a lot more can be resolved quickly. I remember many visits to a South Dakota VA with my uncle that took well over an hour to reach and then hope for time with a doctor. He often had to stay overnight because he could not get in quickly. I am sure many have stories and problems encountered through family, friends, or acquaintances that have had to deal with VA services. I hope that criminal charges are handed out or at least people are held accountable for the disservice done to military veterans.