Trump extends VA's Choice program beyond August

"We will fight each and every day to deliver the long-awaited reforms our veterans deserve," the president said Wednesday.
By Doug G. Ware  |  April 19, 2017 at 2:30 PM
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April 19 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a bill to extend the Veterans Administration Choice program -- the federal government's response to the wait times scandal -- beyond this summer.

The president signed S. 544 on Wednesday, which was passed by the Senate and House earlier this month.

The $10 billion Choice program allows U.S. armed forces members to seek covered medical care at non-VA hospitals and clinics if they are on a waiting list beyond 30 days and live at least 40 miles from the nearest VA facility.

The Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act was instituted under former President Barack Obama in 2014 after it was discovered that some service members were seeing perilously long wait times for care at government hospitals.

The program, intended to clear the back log of VA patients waiting for care, was set to expire in August.

The White House said Wednesday the new law "eliminates the termination date of the Veterans Choice Program" and modifies "reimbursement and cost-recovery procedures for care provided." The law also authorizes "the sharing of certain veterans' medical records with medical service providers outside the Department of Veterans Affairs."

Trump, who has repeatedly pledged support for U.S. servicemen and women, hailed the new law Wednesday.

"The veterans have poured out their sweat and blood and tears for this country for so long and it's time that they are recognized and it's time that we now take care of them and take care of them properly," he said.

"It speaks for itself."

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.

"It's not going to happen anymore," he said. "There is still much work to do. 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."

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