Replacing the Veteran's Choice ProgramReforms have been set in motion to provide Veterans with better healthcare options with the signing of a historic bill by President Donald Trump.  The bill, which he signed at the White House Rose garden ceremony, would replace the current Veteran’s Choice Program.  The Veterans Choice Program allowed veterans to receive VA related health care from civilian doctors if certain guidelines were met.  Those guidelines were based on whether the veteran had to wait over 30 days to be seen or if the veteran was over 40 miles from a VA facility.

Overcoming the Troubled Past of Private Healthcare Options

The Veteran’s Choice Program has been troubled with funding issues since it was created in response to the wait-time scandal in 2014 where VA officials were caught doctoring records to show that patients had been seen in the 14-day timeline.  Funding for the Veteran’s Choice Program was again set to run out of funding on May 31, but the VA announced there was enough funding to cover the Veterans Choice Program until President Trump signed the VA Mission Act.

The new bill will improve upon private health care options for veterans, as well as expand on caregiver assistance to families of disabled veterans. The current program provides a small stipend to family members who care for severely injured post 9/11 veterans.  With a focus on providing better home care options to veterans and their families, the new bill will open that same caregiver assistance over two years to veterans of all eras.

“This is truly a historic moment, a historic time for our country,” President Donald Trump said at the White House Rose Garden ceremony. “We’re allowing our veterans to get access to the best medical care available, whether it’s at the VA or at a private provider.”

Funding Remains the Biggest Hurdle to Overcome

Despite the proposed benefits of the bill, the White House and Congress are at odds about how to fund it. The total cost of the bill over five years is estimated to be between $52 billion and $55 billion. Senator Johnny Isakson acknowledged that the bill isn’t paid for, but is working hard to get the new bill funded. To fund the new bill, the White House has argued cutting other programs. Senator Richard Shelby chairman of Senate Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday that the cuts proposed by the White House could trim $10 billion a year from existing programs, including some at the VA. These proposed cuts could make it difficult to come to an agreement on this bill.

Critics of the new bill warned that these changes could result in the privatization of VA healthcare. A few major concerns about privatizing VA health care include the underused VA facilities being shut down and, could increase the wait time for veterans to be seen for private healthcare facilities. The reasoning behind the long wait time for private healthcare facilities rather than VA facilities is due to concern over poor communication between the VA and outside facilities.

Why a New Healthcare Bill is Necessary, Despite Funding Issues

“If the VA can’t meet the needs of the veteran in a timely manner, that veteran will have the right to go outside to a private doctor. It’s so simple, and yet so complicated,” President Donald Trump said regarding the new bill.

Despite concerns over funding and implementation over this new bill, it remains clear that we need to find a solution for our veterans to suitable healthcare options. Funding seems to be a common theme for any proposed reforms, but the White House is hoping that the new bill could provide veterans the care they deserve.

For more information, please give us a call at Walus Law Group.  We can be reached at 586-954-3250.