An emergency spending bill was passed in the House Friday to fund VA Choice— a program that allows veterans to receive medical care in the private sector.
The deal features additional money for primary health programs within VA, a provision insisted by veterans’ organizations and House Democrats.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin has previously testified to Congress that without new legislation, Choice would run out of money by mid-August, causing interruptions in thousands of veterans to receive health care.
The bill would authorize the VA to sign 28 leases for new VA medical treatment facilities, along with streamlining the hiring of medical professionals. The cost would be offset by decreasing pensions for some veterans that are Medicaid-eligible.
The House vote today comes just before their month-long August recess. The Senate has already agreed to delay their recess for two weeks.
In a joint statement, Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Jon Tester (D-MT)., said “We are glad that veterans will continue to have access to care without interruption and that the VA will be able to improve the delivery of care by addressing critical infrastructure and medical staffing needs. While this is only a short-term fix to the problem, we pledge to continue working together to address the various barriers to timely care for our nation’s veterans.”
Eight veterans’ groups had opposed a plan on Monday that was widely seen as a step towards privatization of the VA. House Democrats blocked the bill that would have funded Choice without providing additional investments in VA health centers.
Before the deal was finalized, Shulkin said in a statement Wednesday “I urge the House of Representatives to act swiftly, so this legislation can be considered in the Senate before the August recess begins”