President Trump’s reauthorization and extension of the Veteran’s Choice Act last week was a step in the right direction, but there’s still much work to be done in ensuring veterans get the health care they deserve. The Choice Act gives veterans who live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility, or who can’t get an appointment within 30 days, the ability to see private doctors instead.
The Choice Act is also funding a new program in Phoenix, the VA announced the day before the reauthorization was signed. Veterans in that area will be able to use CVS MinuteClinics to treat minor injuries and illnesses, avoiding the massive wait times at the Phoenix VA Health Center.
While reauthorizing and expanding the bill was a good step in the right direction, it’s important for lawmakers to remember that this temporary solution is just that: temporary.
The Choice Act, while well-intentioned, was poorly implemented and failed to offer the veterans who qualified it real choices. Even when veterans fall into the “40-mile, 30-day” parameters, many still must navigate miles of bureaucratic red tape to actually get health care. Veterans in Phoenix hoping to use a MinuteClinic have to call a VA nurse and get approval before making an appointment.
It’s time for Congress to pass real, wholesale reforms to health care for those who served. VA Secretary Shulkin has already taken the unprecedented step of calling on lawmakers to pass substantial reform. Veterans deserve care that is flexible and that puts them first, not unaccountable VA bureaucrats. CVA has been advocating for years for a plan that would empower veterans. Check it out here.