Trump OKs funds for vets’ med­i­cal care

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

BED­MIN­STER, N.J. — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has signed an emer­gency spend­ing bill that will pump more than $2 bil­lion into a pro­gram that al­lows vet­er­ans to re­ceive pri­vate med­i­cal care at gov­ern­ment ex­pense.

Trump, who made im­prov­ing vet­er­ans care a cen­tral cam­paign prom­ise, signed the VA Choice and Qual­ity Em­ploy­ment Act on Sat­ur­day while at his New Jer­sey golf club. The bill, which ad­dresses a bud­get short­fall at the De­part­ment of Veteran Af­fairs that threat­ened med­i­cal care for thou­sands of vet­er­ans, pro­vides $2.1 bil­lion to con­tinue fund­ing the Vet­er­ans Choice Pro­gram, which al­lows vet­er­ans to seek pri­vate care.

An­other $1.8 bil­lion will go to core VA health pro­grams, in­clud­ing 28 leases for new VA med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties.

“To­day is an­other mile­stone in our work to trans­form the VA where we’re do­ing record-set­ting busi­ness,” Trump said.

The Choice pro­gram was put in place af­ter a 2014 wait­time scan­dal that was dis­cov­ered at the Phoenix VA hos­pi­tal and spread through­out the coun­try. Vet­er­ans waited weeks or months for ap­point­ments while phony records cov­ered up the lengthy waits.

The pro­gram al­lows vet­er­ans to re­ceive care from out­side doc­tors if they must wait at least 30 days for an ap­point­ment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA fa­cil­ity. VA Sec­re­tary David Shulkin has warned that with­out leg­isla­tive ac­tion, the Choice pro­gram would run out of money by mid-Au­gust, caus­ing de­lays in health care for thou­sands of vet­er­ans.

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