President Donald Trump signed bipartisan legislation Wednesday that eliminates an expiration measure enacted by the 2014 Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act.
Some veterans have criticized the Choice Program for being complex and confusing, and while many congressmen and veterans groups applauded Trump's signing of the bill, they did so with the caveat that the program improves.
The extension will let Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin continue operating the Choice Program until the funding runs out.
"This bill will extend and improve the Veterans Choice Program so that more veterans can see the doctor of their choice, " Trump said. Still, on Tuesday the VA announced it was seeking cutting-edge treatments from the healthcare industry for brain injuries, mental health problems and chronic pain.
He said Republicans, Democrats and Independents supported the bill that he says will begin to fix the Choice Program.
Trump pledged to hold a news conference next week on "all of the tremendous things that are happening at the VA and what we've done in terms of progress and achievement".
Shulkin said the extension is important because it gives veterans another avenue for care.
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", Moran said.
Past year a congressionally mandated panel of experts found the Choice program was inefficient, but recommended establishing a community-based healthcare system that would include private doctors. He said those appointments would have otherwise "lagged" in the VA scheduling system. "We will fight each and every day to deliver the long-awaited reforms our veterans deserve, and to protect those who have so courageously protected each and every one of us".