Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, commended Trump for upholding a campaign promise to make veterans a priority, but said more needed to be done. Congress would have to approve any changes to the VA health system.
The program is meant to provide more timely care by allowing veterans to go outside the VA network only in cases where they had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility.
We must never go back to the pre-scandal days where a VA bureaucrat had the final say as to where and when a veteran got their health care. In addition, Congress will now have more time to work with the new VA Secretary to determine what the next iteration of access to community providers through the VA ought to look like. That proposal is due out by fall.
The Family Caregiver Program, mandated by Congress in 2010, was created to help support family members caring for seriously-wounded veterans in the post-9/11 era. Senator John McCain says, "I've long believed that Veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment".
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"The veterans have poured out their sweat and blood and tears for this country for so long and it's time we now take care of them and take care of them properly", Trump said.
"I am gratified that President Trump today signed into law legislation that eliminates the sunset date on the Veterans Choice Program and ensures veterans continue to have access to timely and convenient health care in their communities". Shulkin said last month that the looming expiration had already been affecting veterans' appointments in cases when they were scheduling procedures months in advance.
Congresswoman Stefanik recently reintroduced her legislation, the Support Our Military Caregivers Act, to reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Family Caregiver Program to help better support family members caring for seriously wounded veterans.
The bigger reforms the VA wants to make following this extension bill will be aimed at fixing more than a half-dozen other systems the VA has for purchasing care from the private sector.