Arlington, VA – Today the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) held a hearing examining the Veterans Choice Program and the future of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) care in the community program. VA Secretary Shulkin testified, unveiling a new vision for expanding choice and community care programs, called the Vets Community Access Rewarding Experience (CARE) program, and announcing a new pilot choice program very similar to what CVA has proposed for years.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) supports expanding veterans’ health choice beyond the current Choice Program. In the bipartisan Fixing Veterans Health Care Task Force, CVA proposes the creation of a government-chartered non-profit and veterans insurance program to oversee the distribution of health care benefits to veterans. In this new model, veterans would be fully empowered to decide where and when to seek care outside of the VA.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“We applaud Secretary Shulkin for proposing reforms that will expand choice and for being willing to test new ideas to deliver health care to our veterans. The current Choice Program was meant to be temporary, has been implemented poorly, and offers unacceptably limited health care options. When it doesn’t make sense to use the VA for care, veterans should be able to go outside of it. We look forward to working with Secretary Shulkin, this administration, and members of Congress to develop legislation that will achieve a vision of true health care freedom for veterans.
“Unfortunately, some members of the Senate — in particular, Senator Patty Murray — are opposed to even trying new ideas to deliver health care to our veterans. It is disappointing that some in Congress just want to double down on the status quo at the VA.”
In April, the Senate passed and President Trump signed a reauthorization and extension of the Veterans Choice Act, which was passed originally in 2014 as a quick fix to the wait list scandal at the VA in Phoenix.
The Veterans Choice Program has been poorly implemented and has not offered the veterans who qualify for it the real choice that the creators of the program envisioned. The “40-mile, 30-day” rule means that, in theory, veterans can only seek care outside the VA if they can’t be seen within a month of when they request an appointment or if they can’t be seen within a 40-mile radius. Even then, many veterans are still forced to jump through many bureaucratic hoops to access the program.
President Trump and VA Secretary Shulkin have both repeatedly expressed the need to give veterans more choice over their health care. President Trump included choice as part of his 10-point plan to fix the VA while he was on the campaign trail last year.