Trump Signs Veterans Choice Improvement Act

 In opinion, Veterans

On April 19th, President Trump signed the “Veterans Choice Improvement Act.” The bill expands a program created in 2014 after wait-time scandals with the VA exploded in over 100 places across the country.  That program was set to expire in August 2017.

The original program placed veterans who live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA or were forced to wait more than 30 days for an appointment, an avenue to choose a private doctor. But the program was flawed and complaints persisted. This bill is a step in the right direction.

There are three parts to the bill that address specific issues, according to the original sponsors. The details on these issues can be found at this document:

Problem #1 – Systemic confusion with accessing health care outside the VA – Solution: Simplify the system.

Problem #2 – Medical providers fear working with the VA – Solution #2 – Create a standardized claims processing system using industry best practices

Problem #3 – VA does not use local medical providers to help veterans-Solution # 3 – Provide VA with the ability to enter into provider agreements

According to Military.com,

The Choice Card program allowed vets facing lengthy wait times at Veterans Administration facilities or living more than 40 miles from the nearest VA to seek care in the private sector. Those already in the program will not need to re-apply under the bill signed by Trump, VA officials said.

The new bill — the Veterans Choice Improvement Act — addressed a major complaint of veterans service organizations by directing the VA to cover co-pays and deductibles directly for private care rather than reimbursing veterans for paying up front.

Is this the ultimate answer? No, but it’s a start

Many people are concerned that this bill will move the VA toward privatization, while other groups say it doesn’t go far enough to address the myriad of issues with obtaining healthcare from the private sector.

We here at Uncle Sam’s have written numerous articles in the last 4 years about poor quality healthcare, ridiculous wait times, disgusting conditions at VA hospitals, etc. There is more than one thing broken at the VA, and the problems appear to be widespread.

There are also issues of low-morale among employees, as evidenced in an article in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser back in March. People with low morale will not perform their best.

Renewing the Choice Program and expanding it is a good thing for America’s Veterans.

According to the Concerned Veterans of America, this new bill is great, but just a start.

“Extending the Choice Program is the right thing to do, but only as a stopgap measure until better solutions are developed and implemented. Reauthorizing the Choice Act buys Congress some time to work with Secretary [David] Shulkin on broader choice reforms that will truly empower veterans with the ability to seek care outside the VA when they want to.” Dan Caldwell, policy director at CVA

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