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Published: Fri, August 04, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Veterans choice program legislation heads to Trump

Veterans choice program legislation heads to Trump

The Senate has approved a pair of bills taking aim at urgent problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs. "By expanding and enhancing educational opportunities for service-members, we will help empower veterans as they pursue new careers and opportunities here at home".

Under Veterans Choice, any veteran who lives 40 miles or more from the closest VA medical facility, or who faces a 30-day or more wait time, can seek out treatment from a private facility and the VA will handle the payment.

"Veterans deserve convenient access to the high-quality health care that they have earned through their service".

"In rural states like ME, the Choice Program is critical to supporting veterans who would otherwise have to travel long distances and sometimes wait hours to receive the health care they need", said Senator King.

Concerned Veterans for America, one of the groups most enthusiastic about promoting choice for veterans, is slightly dissatisfied that the $2.1 billion in Choice funding had to be attached to $1.8 billion in funding new leases for VA medical centers, which they would have preferred be considered separately. Susan Collins (R-ME) to reintroduce the legislation.

The Veterans Choice Program was created under the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, a $16.3 billion funding and reform measure passed in the wake of a scandal over falsified records covering up long patient delays at VA hospitals and clinics around the country. "I am pleased that Congress unanimously passed this legislation to authorize these leases for vital medical facilities and extend the Choice program, and I look forward to it being signed into law".

The other piece of legislation approved by the Senate would cut the time it takes for the VA to handle appeals from veterans unhappy with their disability payouts, part of a bid to reduce a rapidly growing claims backlog. In January, the Maine Senators also reintroduced the bipartisan Providing Veterans Overdue Care Act, legislation that would authorize pending leases for 24 VA medical facilities.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told Congress earlier this year that the Veterans Choice Program funding would run out in mid-August.

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