House Votes to Prevent Expiration of Veterans Choice Program
Bill to Ensure Timely, Quality Care for Veterans Heads to President’s Desk for His Signature
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today released the following statement after the House unanimously passed the Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act, which eliminates the sunset date for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program:
“We made a promise to the brave men and women who served in uniform, and nothing should stand in the way of providing them the care they earned. As Congress and the Trump administration continue working to fix the VA so it works for veterans, extending the Veterans Choice Program is critical to making sure our veterans get the care they need.
“We must do more to eliminate VA scheduling problems and help veterans access private care through the Choice program when they face long wait times. That is why I recently reintroduced the VA Scheduling Accountability Act to ensure all VA facilities follow appropriate scheduling practices and report wait times accurately.”
The Senate earlier this week also unanimously passed the Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act. This legislation, which now heads to the president’s desk for his signature, eliminates the statutory sunset date and allows for the full use of the funding originally set aside for the program. The bill also makes VA the primary payer under the program in order to provide stability and to remedy some of the confusion between veterans and community health care providers.
The Veterans Choice Program, which Congress created in 2014 with the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, provides veterans with the ability to receive non-VA medical care if the VA cannot schedule an appointment within a specified time period or if the veteran lives more than 40 miles from the closest VA medical facility. The program is set to expire on August 7, 2017.
Congresswoman Walorski earlier this year reintroduced the VA Scheduling Accountability Act (H.R. 467). A recent VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report found that inaccuracies in VA facilities’ wait time data resulting from improper scheduling practices limited veterans’ access to private care through the Veterans Choice Program.
H.R. 467 would codify into law the annual requirement for each facility director to certify compliance with VA scheduling practices and prohibit any future waivers of the requirement. It also would require the Secretary of the VA to submit an annual report to Congress listing facilities that have not certified compliance and providing an explanation for each.
Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.