President Donald Trump signed into law on Wednesday the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act, which "eliminates the original sunset date on the Veterans Choice Program" and "gives veterans who are unable to schedule an appointment at a VA facility in a timely or convenient manner the ability to receive care from an eligible non-VA health care".
North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, applauded the decision by Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to suspend revocations and launch an internal review of the VA Caregiver program.
The $10 billion Choice program allows USA armed forces members to seek covered medical care at non-VA hospitals and clinics if they are on a waiting list beyond 30 days and live at least 40 miles from the nearest VA facility.
The program is set to expire in August without the legislation, and with almost $1 billion in the account.More news: Ex Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer offers facts on government
The Phoenix VA was the site of the 2014 scandal over chronically long wait times for care. That proposal is due out by fall.
Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, Retired Army Lt. Col. Glenn Sutphin, will also join.
In the statement Monday, Poonam Alaigh, acting VA under secretary for health, said the VA was "focused on process improvements". But bureaucratic problems have prevented many veterans from using the program. Mr. Trump's choice of Shulkin, the VA's former undersecretary of health, to head the VA was an indication to some Republicans that Mr. Trump did not plan to fundamentally gut and reshape the VA's structure.
A consolidated and integrated network of community providers is critical for the VA to reduce the burden on those who have sacrificed for their nation and are seeking access to the care they earned through the VA. Congress will work to make certain the VA strikes the right balance - delivering on our nation's commitment to our veterans to provide access to healthcare when and where a veteran needs it. At the same time, he wants the VA to work in partnership by handling all the scheduling and "customer service", something that congressional auditors say could be unwieldy and expensive.