Any president who campaigns on making America great again would be well-advised to make sure the care and well-being of U.S. veterans are top priorities on the list of requirements to achieve that transformation.
And today, President Donald Trump did just that.
According to the Washington Examiner:
President Trump signed legislation Wednesday that will dramatically expand a program at the Department of Veterans Affairs that lets patients seek care from private doctors if they want to bypass the troubled VA system.
The Veterans Choice Improvement Act removes barriers that Congress placed around the original “choice” initiative and eliminates an expiration date that would have shuttered the program in August.
The “troubled VA system” has long been a painful wound in the side of veterans seeking healthcare. It was a problem that came to light in 2014 during the so-called “VA scandal.”
As CNN.com reported at the time
More than 1,000 veterans may have died in the last decade because of malpractice or lack of care from Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers, a new report … finds.
The report aggregates government investigations and media reports to trace a history of fraudulent scheduling practices, budget mismanagement, insufficient oversight and lack of accountability that have led to the current controversy plaguing the VA.
The VA has admitted that 23 patients have died because of delayed care in recent years., but the report… shows many more patient deaths have been linked to systemic issues affecting VA hospitals and clinics…
The Washington Examiner adds:
Lawmakers created the choice program in 2014 after a massive scandal involving wait time cover-ups at more than 100 VA facilities around the country. It was initially structured as a two-year pilot program that limited when and where veterans could choose to see private doctors. Patients could only use the choice program if they lived more than 40 miles from the nearest VA hospital or if they could not get an appointment from their local VA facility within 30 days.
Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America, says
Extending the Choice Program is the right thing to do, but only as a stopgap measure until better solutions are developed and implemented.
Reauthorizing the Choice Act buys Congress some time to work with Secretary [David] Shulkin on broader choice reforms that will truly empower veterans with the ability to seek care outside the VA when they want to.”
The issue of the healthcare delivered by the VA also became an important issue in the last campaign, with both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton only begrudgingly admitting the agency needing reform and repeatedly warning that Trump wanted to privatize veteran’s health care.
Trump in response claims that he didn’t want to privatize their health care but did want to give veterans more choices for health care, including the ability to see private doctors.