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Senate Committee Must Improve and Expand Health Care Choice for Veterans

By Concerned Veterans for America

Arlington, VA – This afternoon the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will meet to hear several bills pertaining to veterans’ health care. Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) is urging the committee to produce a bill for veterans that will expand choice and improve care.

CVA supports expanding veterans’ health choice beyond the current Choice Program. In the bipartisan Fixing Veterans Health Care Task ForceCVA 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 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

CVA Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:

“Veterans chose to put their lives at risk to protect our nation and they deserve to choose where they will receive their healthcare. The Veterans Choice Program is only a first step and should not be viewed as a permanent solution for veterans’ health care. The current choice program is simply a stop-gap measure that should buy Congress the time they need to pursue bolder VA health care reforms. We urge the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to produce a bill that will give veterans real health care choice and improve the quality of care they receive at the VA. Recently, VA Secretary David Shulkin proposed the VetsCARE program which is a step in the right direction for improving health care choice, consolidating community care, and testing future methods of delivering health care for our veterans. Congress should use this proposal as a starting point to build and improve upon for future legislation that reforms VA health care.”

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.