Changes for VA health program?

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President Trump urged Congress to “fix” a veterans’ health-care program hours after the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee reintroduced a plan to do so.

“This spring marks [four years] since the Phoenix VA crisis. We won’t forget what happened to our GREAT VETS,” Trump tweeted.

What’s at issue: Trump is referring to the Veterans Choice Program, which was created in the wake of the 2014 wait-time scandal that started with the Phoenix Veterans Affairs health-care system. It allows some veterans to see private doctors, but only in cases where they have to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility.

New bill: House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) reintroduced legislation that would overhaul private-care options for veterans enrolled in the VA health system. The bill would:

  • Expand caregiver benefits for older veterans and create a process for closing excess facilities.
  • Expand the ranks of veterans 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.
  • Allocate $5.2 billion to keep the Choice program funded until the new program is implemented.

The controversy: Privatization. The bill was originally negotiated as part of the massive government spending bill Congress passed in March, but was stripped out after last-minute objections by House Democrats, who feel it moves too far toward privatizing the VA.

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