Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) September 7, 2017 - The Senate unanimously voted to approve a bill that would provide funding for the almost depleted Veterans Choice Program. The legislation provides a temporary fix to what has been a looming problem for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The $2.1 billion emergency spending package would prevent the interruption of health care for countless veterans. The program would have enough money to sustain it for six more months.
“The Veterans Choice Program was established to reduce appointment wait times for veterans seeking quality medical care,” commented Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “The bill’s passage is a key step forward as the VA cannot afford to let the program expire and have our veterans struggling for health care once again.”
The Veterans Choice Program enables veterans to venture outside the VA system to seek private-sector health care. Patients who do not have access to a nearby VA facility or who face wait times of more than 30 days can benefit from it. The program was set up following the 2014 appointment wait times scandal at VA hospitals nationwide.
House and Senate lawmakers negotiated the bipartisan funding deal in response to recent warnings from the VA. In June, VA Secretary David Shulkin cautioned that the program would run out of money by mid-August without action from Congress. Congress ignored his request to authorize the VA to transfer funds around in order to keep the program operational.
“It is critical that the Veterans Choice Program has the funding to continue offering timely appointments for veterans in their own communities,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, said in a statement.
The House unanimously passed the legislation in late July after incorporating new language. Democrat lawmakers had demanded a revision to allay the concerns of several veterans organizations. They feared that the Veterans Choice Program neglected VA services in favor of private-sector medical care.
The $2.1 billion spending package is viewed as an effort to keep the Veterans Choice Program running while the VA, veterans groups and Congress consider how the agency approaches private-sector medical care.
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