House funds short­fall, ex­tends choice pro­gram

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Hope Yen and Matthew Daly

WASH­ING­TON» The House over­whelm­ingly ap­proved a $3.9 bil­lion emer­gency spend­ing pack­age to ad­dress a bud­get short­fall at the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs that threat­ens med­i­cal care for thou­sands of vet­er­ans.

The bill pro­vides $2.1 bil­lion to con­tinue fund­ing the Vet­er­ans Choice pro­gram, which al­lows vet­er­ans to re­ceive pri­vate med­i­cal care at govern­ment ex­pense. An­other $1.8 bil­lion would go to core VA health pro­grams, in­clud­ing 28 leases for new VA med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties.

The bill, ap­proved 414-0 Fri­day, goes to the Se­nate.

The Choice pro­gram was put in place af­ter a 2014 wait-time scan­dal that was dis­cov­ered at the Phoenix VA hospi­tal and spread through­out the coun­try. Vet­er­ans waited weeks or months for ap­point­ments.

A pri­or­ity of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, 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.

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