Trump extends program allowing some veterans to use local doctors, hospitals

Erica Roy
April 20, 2017

Trump is to sign the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act.

"VA is taking immediate action to review the National Caregiver Support Program to ensure we honor our commitment to enhance the health and well-being of Veterans", said VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, in a press release.

The law eliminates the August expiration date of a program born out of the 2014 Department of Veterans Affairs wait time scandal that allows enrolled veterans to see doctors in their communities instead of waiting for a VA appointment.

The program, meant to clear the back log of VA patients waiting for care, was set to expire in August.

Veterans Affairs and CVS Health Corp (NYSE:CVS) have entered into a collaboration meant to benefit the veterans visiting the Phoenix VA medical center. Last Congress, I was pleased to have my legislation - the Support Our Military Caregivers Act - pass the House of Representatives and I urge Secretary Shulkin to support this bill as we seek to have it passed and signed into law. "By working together we're going to continue this progress".

"This is a great day to celebrate not only what veterans have contributed to the country, but how we're making things better for them", says Shulkin.

Trump and Tester say the bill makes it less hard for veterans to get care.

The Oregonian reported about more than a dozen Oregon veterans that were turned away from the program, with appeals responded to with form letters. This represents millions of appointments that would have otherwise lagged in the VA's scheduling system for everything from routine check-ups and diagnostic tests to life saving heart and cancer treatment.

The bigger reforms the VA wants to make following this extension bill will be aimed at fixing more than a half-dozen other systems the VA has for purchasing care from the private sector. Only 61 percent of veterans surveyed said they got an appointment for urgent primary care when they needed it, according to VA data. "We have a long way to go to fully reform veterans' health care, but today's legislation is an important first step in that effort".

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