President Trump signed the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act on Wednesday, cementing into law a piece of legislation that “eliminates the original sunset date on the Veterans Choice Program.” As a result of the law, veterans who aren’t able to secure a timely appointment with a VA clinic will have the ability to seek care from eligible non-VA clinics and hospitals. In signing the bill, Trump has taken an important step towards fulfilling his many promises to America’s veterans that he made on the campaign trail last year.
According to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, the new law will serve as a lifeline to suffering vets while comprehensive reform legislation makes its way through Capitol Hill.
“Using funds that have already been appropriated for this program, this gives our nation’s heroes the peace of mind they deserve while this administration works with Congress to enact comprehensive reform and modernization at the VA,” Spicer said.
At the signing, President Trump said, “The veterans have poured out their sweat and blood and tears for this country for so long, and it’s time that they’re recognized, and it’s time that we now take care of them, and take care of them properly.”
Trump said the new law would mean veterans would not have to travel extraordinary distances and wait for weeks to get the healthcare they need.
“Some people have to travel five hours, eight hours, and they have to do it on a weekly basis, and even worse than that. It’s not going to happen anymore,” he said.
By signing the bill, Trump ensures that the remaining money allocated to the Choice program – nearly a billion dollars – will not go to waste, and he sets the stage for his administration to work with Congress to pursue legislation that will give veterans more flexibility and affordability when it comes to seeking care. Additionally, the new law will now compel the VA to cover co-payments and deductibles for vets who choose a private doctor rather than forcing to vets to wait for reimbursement after the fact. That’s no small clause, seeing as how many vets are already living on extremely tight budgets that don’t give them much room for error.
The bill was a rare case of truly bipartisan legislation in an era of increasingly partisan divide in Washington. In an op-ed for Fox News, Republican senators John McCain and Jerry Moran said it should only represent the first step towards improving the nation’s VA healthcare structure:
As we work to ensure all veterans have access to care, we must develop an informed, strategic plan for the future of veteran healthcare through the VA. No veteran should worry they won’t be able to get the care they need. Where there are gaps that local providers can fill, such as in rural areas, the community should fill them. Our veterans should feel confident in the large network of providers both inside and outside VA facilities that are dedicated to their needs.
This is the kind of initiative that politicians on both sides of the aisle can get behind, but it all starts with White House leadership. It starts with a president who actually gives a damn about our fighting men and women. Thankfully, we finally have that president.