Published: Thu, April 20, 2017
USA | By Angel Wallace

Trump to sign bill extending veterans' health care program

Trump to sign bill extending veterans' health care program

President Donald Trump has signed a bill extending a program that lets some veterans seek medical care in the private sector. He said more work is needed, but called the legislation "an important first step".

"We need to make sure the Choice Program continues, but it works better for veterans", Shulkin said.

Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to give veterans freedom to seek care "at a private service provider of their own choice".

"I came to the conclusion we have to maintain a strong VA", Shulkin said on C-SPAN.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer says Trump will sign the bill Wednesday at the White House. Under the bill, the VA will be allowed to operate its Choice program until the funding runs out.

Shulkin said he expects to send Congress proposals for reforming the Choice program in the fall, leaving a short window for Congress to act on passing legislation that Shulkin said is necessary in this calendar year.

The law eliminates the August expiration date of a program born out of the 2014 Department of Veterans Affairs wait time scandal that allows enrolled veterans to see doctors in their communities instead of waiting for a VA appointment.

"This announcement is good news for our Caregivers and I applaud Secretary Shulkin for making this program a priority".

"It's not going to happen anymore", he said.

Acting VA Under Secretary for Health Poonam Alaigh said in a statement that the goal of the review is to identify "process improvements and support services" for caregivers in the program.

VA officials said the review will not halt the processing of new caregiver applications. This represents millions of appointments that would have otherwise lagged in the VA's scheduling system for everything from routine check-ups and diagnostic tests to life saving heart and cancer treatment.

He said the backlog of initial disability claims has been reduced from about 611,000 in recent years to about 100,000 cases, but there was a slight uptick during the hiring freeze.

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