Health Care

Trump signs new VA bill

Trump signs new VA bill

President Donald Trump signed a bill into law Wednesday that will give veterans more freedom to see doctors outside the troubled Veterans Affairs system, a major shift aimed at reducing wait times and improving care by steering more patients to the private sector. "It's less expensive for us, it works out much better, and it's immediate care".

In previous months, critics and other healthcare stakeholders have called for improvements to the Veterans Choice Program, citing enrollment errors, exceptionally long wait times, and a convoluted referral process that hinders patient access to care.

The final bill includes two of U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn's, R-Fla., proposals and the freshman congressman was thrilled that Trump signed it.

The tension over how to pay for the legislation is part of a larger debate over private care for veterans.

TRUMP: "My administration has also taken action to ensure veterans can seamlessly transition their medical records from the Department of Defense into the VA. ..."

"It's getting better and better", he said.

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"Without subjecting the program to any budgetary constraint, there is no incentive to continue to serve veterans with innovative, streamlined and efficient quality of care", the administration says in the memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post. Of that, $73.1 billion would go toward health care services for veterans. It also expands stipends for a popular program that pays family caregivers of veterans who served in Vietnam and later wars, for example, a priority for advocates.

The bill replaces the Veterans Choice Program, which, although popular and effective for many vets, was plagued with funding problems, leaving vets to foot the bill for their care from private providers.

"If we implement this bill as Congress has written it, this legislation will be transformational to the VA", Roe, R-1st, of Johnson City, said. Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector. Many local veterans say it's about time.

Supporters call it a sweeping, historic move created to get veterans the care they need, but as Washington Correspondent Alana Austin reports, some worry more is less. He said that consolidating the multiple private care programs that exist now should control the new bill's costs. More importantly, the veterans who will place their lives in the hands of medical providers and healthcare networks under the VA Mission Act need to see real evidence that the nation they defended truly and meaningfully thanks them for their service.

The president said he won't treat as mandatory a requirement to consult Congress on the appointment of members to an asset and infrastructure review commission.

The House Veterans' Affairs Committee passed Dunn's "Veterans Opioid Abuse Prevention Act" without opposition back in May.


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