Trump urges Congress to ‘fix’ veterans health-care program BY REBECCA KHEEL – 05/03/18 01:27 PM EDT
“This spring marks [four years] since the Phoenix VA crisis. We won’t forget what happened to our GREAT VETS,” Trump tweeted.
The Veterans Choice Program allows some veterans to see private doctors. It was created in the wake of the 2014 wait-time scandal that started with the Phoenix Veterans Affairs health-care system.
Earlier Thursday, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe(R-Tenn.) reintroduced a bill that would overhaul private-care options for veterans enrolled in the Veterans Affairs health-care system, as well as expand caregiver benefits for older veterans and create a process for closing excesses facilities.
The bill would expand which veterans are eligible to see private-sector health specialists, as well as entitle veterans enrolled in the system to see a private doctor without a co-pay twice a year.
“This legislation must be passed, and if Congress fails to act veterans will pay for that failure,” Roe said in a statement Thursday. “The VA MISSION Act is appropriately named, as it will put the department back on track to fulfilling President Lincoln’s promise to care for the men and women who have borne the battle.”
The bill was originally negotiated as part of the massive government spending bill Congress passed in March. But it was ultimately stripped out before passage after last-minute objections by House Democrats.
The re-introduction of the bill and Trump’s tweet come after acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie warned lawmakers in a letter Friday that the Veterans Choice Program will run out of money in the first two weeks of June. Roe’s bill contains $5.2 billion to keep the Choice program funded until the new program is implemented.
The debate over to what extent veterans should get private health care at taxpayer expense has heated up amid Trump’s leadership shakeup at the department.
Former Secretary David Shulkin has said he was fired because there are forces in the Trump administration pushing the VA toward full privatization, which he opposes.
Trump is currently weighing nominees to replace Shulkin after his first choice, White House physician Ronny Jackson, withdrew from consideration amid allegations about his behavior on the job.