Arlington, VA — Today President Trump is expected to sign S. 114, which will provide six months of emergency funding for the Veterans Choice Program. The program had been facing an urgent budget shortfall after referrals to the program increased. Through this measure, $2.1 billion will be appropriated for the Veterans Choice Program and another $1.8 billion will be appropriated for medical facility leases at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) supported an earlier, more fiscally responsible solution to the Veterans Choice Program funding problem. That measure was blocked by some veterans organizations and elected officials in Congress, including Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC).
CVA Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“We’re grateful President Trump is taking decisive action so that veterans using the Choice Program won’t see lapses in their care due to a lack of funding. Unfortunately, this bill took far too long to get to the President’s desk and is $1.8 billion more expensive than it needed to be. What we saw during this process was a preview of how choice opponents will behave in upcoming months as Congress works on broader reform.
“We will continue holding elected officials accountable for standing in the way of veterans’ best interests and we will advocate for legislation to provide veterans with permanent access to private sector care. We agree with Secretary Shulkin that the Veterans Choice Program is not the end state of veterans’ health care choice.”
CVA is currently running a campaign to hold Rep. Walz accountable for blocking the Veterans Choice Program funding at a crucial moment, choosing instead to play political games. Earlier this week, the group began running digital ads statewide in Minnesota drawing attention to his vote.
The Veterans Choice Program, which was enacted under the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act, was implemented in response to the wait list scandal of 2014. It was passed as a stop-gap measure and was never intended to be a permanent solution.
CVA has proposed giving all veterans who qualify for VA health care the ability to use their benefits to access care in the private sector if they so choose while also restructuring the existing VA provider network into a government-chartered nonprofit corporation.