Trump extends private-sector health care program for vets

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During Wednesday's signing ceremony, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin praised the extension of the Veterans Choice program.

Additionally, the White House said in a statement Wednesday that the new law also modifies "reimbursement and cost-recovery procedures for care provided under the Program; and to authorize the sharing of certain veterans' medical records with medical service providers outside the Department of Veterans Affairs". Interestingly, the veterans will not be bound by the existing limitations under the VA's Choice program.

Whether that veteran is in Hays, Kansas, and forced to drive more than 180 miles to get a shingles shot, or that veteran is in Phoenix, Arizona, waiting months to receive care at their local VA hospital, the needs of the veteran have to come first.

It's an amendment to a law enacted three years ago.

"Our number one priority is getting veterans' access to care when and where they need it", said Baligh Yehia, the VA's deputy undersecretary for health for community care. But bureaucratic problems have prevented many veterans from using the program. Many vets complain that Choice actually makes getting care more hard and time-consuming, and some health care providers have dropped out due to slow payments or administrative hassles.

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Trump said veterans have "not been taken care of properly" and that the program will continue to be able to see "the doctor of their choice".

The Choice Program will have an estimated $990 million remaining after August, but those funds will likely run out before 2018, he said.

Tester is the primary sponsor of the bill that amends the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014.

McCain, a Navy veteran, said the extension "sends an important message that we will not send our veterans back to the status quo of unending wait-times for appointments and substandard care".

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. But, he wants the VA to handle all scheduling and "customer service" - something that veterans groups generally support but government auditors caution could prove unwieldy and expensive.