Trump extends private-sector health care program for vets

  • Trump extends private-sector health care program for vets

Trump extends private-sector health care program for vets

President Trump signed a bill today to temporarily extend a troubled program created to allow veterans to get medical care in the private sector.

After campaigning on the issue of veterans' care that dogged former President Barack Obama for most of his tenure, Mr. Trump signed a reauthorization of the Veterans Choice Act and announced that he'll devote a press conference to veterans issues next week at the White House.

Although the program is now limited to the Phoenix area, the collaboration is a test-run of sorts as VA Secretary David Shulkin mulls an overhaul proposal aimed at reducing veterans' wait times. It allows ailing veterans at the Phoenix VA to go to one of 24 "MinuteClinics" operated by CVS for treatment of minor illnesses and injuries. The program was scheduled to expire on August 7 with almost $1 billion left over.

The Choice program was developed after a 2014 scandal over wait times at the VA medical center in Phoenix. That proposal is due out by fall.

In the statement Monday, Poonam Alaigh, acting VA under secretary for health, said the VA was "focused on process improvements".

As we work to ensure all veterans have access to care, we must develop an informed, strategic plan for the future of veteran healthcare through the VA.

The president added that the bill lets waiting veterans see "the doctor of their choice" and avoid having to travel long distances to get care.

"The Choice program was passed as a quick fix to the wait list manipulation scandal that broke three years ago", said Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America.

Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to give veterans freedom to seek care "at a private service provider of their own choice". Major features of the program include medical support for caregivers, who often suffer from health problems as they focus on the veteran's well-being, and providing stipends to compensate caregivers' time.

Trump was joined by Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, who praised the bill.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said more than 1 million veterans have made 7 million appointments with health care providers in their communities under the Choice Program. At the same time, he wants the VA to work in partnership by handling all the scheduling and "customer service", something that congressional auditors say could be unwieldy and expensive.