President Donald Trump signed the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act Saturday, giving $2.1 billion to fund the Veterans Choice program and $1.8 billion for other VA health efforts.
The funds will allow Veterans Choice to last for another half year. As it was, the program was set to run out of money by mid-August. The program allows veterans with long wait or travel times for appointments to get federally funded care elsewhere, from non-VA doctors. The VA launched the program in 2014, when veterans were facing weeks or months-long waits—waits that were covered up by false records.
“Today is another milestone in our work to transform the VA where we're doing record-setting business,” Trump said from Bedminster, N.J., where he's on vacation at his golf club.
Earlier this summer, VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin proposed his own version of work to transform the VA when he outlined a new version of Veterans Choice, to be called the Veterans Affairs Community Care Program, which would get rid of the wait- and travel-time requirements. Under the new program, VA clinicians would assess veterans' health risk to decide whether private providers would be best for those veterans—a tactic that Shulkin has called “more effective.”
It's not yet clear how this new funding will affect the potential morphing of one program into the other. Shulkin said in June that he hoped that legislation for the Care Program would be passed by September, at the end of the fiscal year.