President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a bill extending the often-criticized Veterans Choice Program beyond its August 2017 expiration date, a move that Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said would buy him time to work with Congress on program improvements.
The Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act allows veterans to visit private doctors at private hospitals.
Next Thursday, Dr. Shulkin and President Trump will hold a news conference to give an update on the progress made in reforming the Veterans Administration.
The 2014 initiative ensures that USA veterans do not have to wait long periods of time or drive long distances to get their healthcare needs from a provider and can opt instead to receive healthcare from a local provider.
Shulkin has said that he will present to Congress this fall proposals to overhaul the Choice program to give veterans more options for private care and better integrate the VA with the private sector. Under the bill Trump signed into law, the VA will be allowed to continue operating its Choice Program until the funding runs out, which is expected early next year.
The new law also calls for changes to alleviate some problems by speeding up VA payments and promoting greater sharing of medical records.
He said Republicans, Democrats and Independents supported the bill that he says will begin to fix the Choice Program. Those groups generally oppose privatization as a threat to the viability of VA medical centers. "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".
The program offers a choice to qualifying veterans that lets them see private doctors if they want to bypass the VA's medical care system.
"Montana veterans have told me time and again that they had to jump over too many hurdles with the Choice Program", stated Tester, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
The President of the United States added: "So this is called the Choice Program Improvement Act".
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