President Donald Trump signed a bill that will continue to give veterans more choices over their health care.
The bill is called the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act.
“This bill will extend and improve the Veterans Choice Program so that more veterans can see the doctor of their choice and don’t have to wait and travel long distances for [Veterans Affairs] VA care,” said Trump. “Some people have to travel five hours, eight hours, and they’ll have to do it on a weekly basis, and even worse than that. It’s not going to happen anymore.”
The president added that this bill was a first step and that more reforms will be done to better serve veterans.
“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 it’s time that we now take care of them, and take care of them properly,” he said.
The bill is a reauthorization of the 2014 Veterans Choice Program, which expanded the number of options veterans have for receiving care, allocated funds for hiring more medical staff at VA medical centers, and granted the United States secretary of veterans affairs more power to fire senior executives.
It gives veterans the option to seek care outside the VA system if they live more than 40 miles away from a VA hospital or can’t get an appointment within 30 days.
The legislation came as a response to a scandal involving long wait times at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and a subsequent cover up of those wait times.
In 2014, a White House audit found that more than 57,000 veterans waited at least 90 days to see a doctor, while another 63,000 never received an initial appointment over the past 10 years. Thirty-five veterans died while waiting for care in the Phoenix VHA system, according to VA internal investigations.