The Veterans Choice Improvement Act
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The Veterans Choice Improvement Act
19 April 2017 - President Trump signed legislation Wednesday that will
dramatically expand a program at the Department of Veterans Affairs that
lets patients seek care from private doctors if they want to bypass the
troubled VA system.

The Veterans Choice Improvement Act removes barriers that Congress
placed around the original "choice" initiative and eliminates an expiration
date that would have shuttered the program in August.

Lawmakers created the choice program in 2014 after a massive scandal
involving wait time cover-ups at more than 100 VA facilities around the
country. It was initially structured as a two-year pilot program that limited
when and where veterans could choose to see private doctors. Patients could
only use the choice program if they lived more than 40 miles from the nearest
VA hospital or if they could not get an appointment from their local VA facility
within 30 days.

The choice program has proven controversial since its inception three years
ago. Critics have questioned whether increasing veterans' reliance on private
doctors might move the VA toward privatization, while proponents of such
efforts have accused the VA of resisting steps to implement the program in
order to protect the status quo.

Some veterans advocates, such as Concerned Veterans for America, praised
the administration's temporary push to extend choice but encouraged
lawmakers to continue searching for solutions to the VA's ongoing struggles
with long wait times.

The choice program has proven controversial since its inception three years
ago. Critics have questioned whether increasing veterans' reliance on private
doctors might move the VA toward privatization, while proponents of such
efforts have accused the VA of resisting steps to implement the program in
order to protect the status quo.

Some veterans advocates, such as Concerned Veterans for America, praised
the administration's temporary push to extend choice but encouraged
lawmakers to continue searching for solutions to the VA's ongoing struggles
with long wait times.

"Extending the Choice Program is the right thing to do, but only as a
stopgap measure until better solutions are developed and implemented,"
said Dan Caldwell, policy director at CVA. "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."


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