Eight veterans organizations are calling on House lawmakers to shoot-down a bill that funds Veterans Choice—a program that allows veterans to receive treatment outside of the VA.
With the ever popular Veterans Choice Program set to run out of funds by August, a warning that came from Secretary Shulkin in June, the House Veterans’ Affairs committee will vote on a bill Monday night that provides $2 billion to keep the program afloat for the next six months. To fund Choice, the money would come from other VA programs.
In a statement issued Saturday, the eight organizations encouraged House lawmakers to find a way to fund Choice by not gutting other programs within VA.
“In order to ensure that veterans can receive necessary care without interruption, we call on House leaders to take the time necessary to work together with Senate leaders to develop acceptable “choice” funding legislation that not only fills the current funding gap, but also addresses urgent VA infrastructure and resource needs that led to creation of the “choice” program in the first place”, the letter reads.
The eight groups view the bill as a path to ultimately privatize the VA, a controversial step for both lawmakers and VA officials. The letter goes on to say “If new funding is directed only or primarily to private sector “choice” care without any adequate investment to modernize VA, the viability of the entire system, will soon be in danger”
AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association (IAVA), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), and Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) issued the joint statement.
The increasingly popular Veterans Choice program allows veterans who cannot obtain an appointment within 30 days, or live more than 40 miles from a VA healthcare facility, to be treated in their community.
Secretary Shulkin responded Monday morning in an USA Today op-ed where he spells out his intention to not allow VA not be privatized on his watch.
The House is scheduled to vote on a package of bills related to the VA Monday night, including the ‘Forever’ GI Bill.