President Trump Takes First Step to Give Veterans More Choice in Health Care

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act, a bill to preserve a flawed but important program that represents a first step in enabling veterans to choose another health care option besides the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This reform will help address the heinous problem of veterans dying while waiting in line for care.

"The veterans have poured out their sweat and blood and tears for this country for so long and it's time that they're recognized and that we now take care of them and take care of them properly," President Trump declared. He explained that the goal of the act is to enable veterans to "see the doctor of their choice" and avoid having to "wait and travel long distances for VA care."

Here is a photo of President Trump after signing the bill, with VA Secretary David Shulkin, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and others.

While the bill represented an accomplishment, everyone at the signing agreed it was a mere first step toward the larger goal.

"This was a very important bill to get started with," Congressman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) explained. "What we want to do is put the veterans in charge of these choices, not the bureaucracy."

Mark Lucas, executive director at Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), attended the ceremony and hailed the legislation. "President Trump is upholding the promises he made to veterans and we applaud him for continuing to make them a priority," Lucas said in a statement. "However, there is more to be done."

Lucas explained that the Choice Program "was passed as a quick fix to the wait list manipulation scandal that broke three years ago, and while it's helped, too many veterans are still forced to seek care at failing VA facilities."

With the program being extended past its original August 7 sunset date, "Congress now has some time to work with Secretary Shulkin on broader, more permanent choice reforms that will truly put the veteran at the center of their health care and remove VA bureaucrats as the middlemen," Lucas argued. "We look forward to supporting legislation that will let veterans go outside the VA for care when they want or need to."

VA Secretary David Shulkin and President Trump announced a press conference next Thursday at 2 p.m. Eastern to discuss Shulkin's reforms at the VA.