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CVA: Renew Choice Program as “Stopgap” Until More Permanent Choice Reforms Take Hold

By Concerned Veterans for America

Arlington, VA – Tomorrow the House of Representatives will vote to renew the Veterans Choice Program. Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) urges Congress to re-authorize the current Choice Card program until more permanent reforms can take hold.

Yesterday the Senate voted to extend the Department of Veterans Affairs’ program of private-sector care. The bill, passed by voice vote, would allow the VA to continue operating its Choice program until its money runs out, expected early next year. 

CVA Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:

The House should follow suit and re-authorize the Choice Program, but only as a stopgap measure until improved reforms can take permanent hold. The Choice Program was intended to be a temporary solution in response to the Phoenix VA crisis of 2014, and it was implemented poorly. Real choice means veterans are able to access care outside of the VA at their own discretion, not based on arbitrary ‘day’ and ‘mile’ rules which only apply to certain VA-approved facilities. We have concerns about the changes to choice program’s secondary payer requirements in this bill, and we do not support making these changes part of any future ‘Choice 2.0’ program. We look forward to working with Congress, Secretary Shulkin, and President Trump to enact meaningful choice reform later this year.

Secretary Shulkin has acknowledged the general need for choice at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and included enacting “Choice 2.0” as one of his top ten priorities for fixing the VA. President Trump included choice as part of his 10-point plan to fix the VA while he was on the campaign trail last year.

CVA has advocated for sweeping choice reforms at the VA for years. In CVA’s Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce, CVA proposes the creation of a government-chartered non-profit which would oversee the distribution of benefits at the VA and empower veterans with the ability to choose how to use those benefits. CVA also supports the Caring for Our Heroes in the 21st Century Act, draft legislation introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) last year which would empower veterans to seek care inside or outside the VA at their own discretion.