Yesterday the House of Representatives moved forward on legislation sent over from the Senate to extend the sunset date of the Veterans Choice Program. This program, first enacted in 2014 after the Phoenix VA wait list scandal, partially reformed VA medical care to allow some vets to access their medical care in the private sector rather than through the VA.
The VA’s Choice Program end-date is quickly approaching, but comprehensive choice reform has still not been put in place. Extending the Choice Program sunset date is necessary so that veterans can continue to receive quality care while Congress works on a better choice alternative for veterans. Implementation of this program was shoddy at best, however it’s must be reauthorized as a stopgap measure until Congress passes a better solution.
New reforms should broaden access to private health care for veterans beyond the “40-mile, 30-day” rule which currently only allows choice for vets who are waiting longer than 30 days for an appointment or live further than 40 miles from a VA facility. VA Secretary David Shulkin has made improving the Choice Program one of his top priorities. While the current Choice Program is continued, he and Congress should be working on a better solution to replace it and give veterans the care they deserve.