Trump signs extension of VA Choice Program, calls it a 'good start'

Trump signs extension of VA Choice Program, calls it a 'good start'

Trump signs extension of VA Choice Program, calls it a 'good start'

Governor Rick Scott will join President Trump for a bill signing of the Veteran's Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act at 11:30 the White House.

The bill signed by President Trump Wednesday extends the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 past the original sunset date of August 2017.

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.

Veterans Choice is created to allow veterans who have waited more than 30 days for an appointment at a VA facility, or who live more than 40 miles from one, instead to get care from private providers who then bill the VA.

It's an amendment to a law enacted three years ago. "We look forward to supporting legislation that will let veterans go outside the VA for care when they want or need to".

"Veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care", he said.

Major veterans' organizations and Democrats support a temporary extension of the Choice Program, but are closely watching the coming VA revamp of the program for signs that the Trump administration may seek greater privatization.

In fact, since the inception of Choice, more than seven million appointments have been scheduled with community providers for medical services ranging from diagnostic tests and physical therapy to life saving heart and cancer care. Shulkin said last month that the looming expiration had already been affecting veterans' appointments in cases when they were scheduling procedures months in advance. Of the many veterans surveyed about the facility, 61% expressed their disappointment in obtaining an appointment for urgent primary care.

In a statement, VA Secretary David Shulkin said the move is needed "to ensure we honor our commitment to enhance the health and well-being of veterans".

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