President Donald Trump signed bipartisan legislation Wednesday that eliminates an expiration measure enacted by the 2014 Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act.
Following the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs three years ago that showed many veterans died while waiting for appointments, Congress passed the Veterans Choice Program.
The 2014 initiative ensures that U.S. 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.
However, because the 2014 legislation was authorized and funded by emergency measures, a sunset provision was added, so the VA had prepared to restrict medical services in the program beyond the August 2017 termination date.
The present legislation, the Veterans Choice Improvement Act signed by Trump, “eliminates the August 2017 expiration, streamlines the process between the VA and community providers, and reduces the burden on veterans and the community providers who serve them,” Republican Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran wrote in an opinion piece on FoxNews.com.
“This bill will extend and improve the Veterans Choice Program so that more veterans can see the doctor of their choice — you got it? The doctor of their choice — and don’t have to wait and travel long distances for VA care,” Trump said of the bill Wednesday. “Some people have to travel five hours, eight hours, and they’ll have to do it on a weekly basis, and even worse than that. It’s not going to happen anymore.”
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.”
“We must never go back to the pre-scandal days where a VA bureaucrat had the final say as to where and when a veteran got their health care. We will continue working with our colleagues in the Senate and the new administration to follow through on our commitment to those who have borne the price of battle for our nation,” Moran said.