Huge VA reforms introduced in Congress, including Choice funding

Matt Saintsing
May 03, 2018 - 2:53 pm

Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA

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A host of Department of Veterans Affairs improvements would collapse the VA’s community care into one program and give veterans more flexibility when seeking medical care outside the VA.

House Committee on Veterans Affairs chairman, Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), introduced legislation Thursday, that would not only overhaul how the VA provides private-sector care, it provides $5.2 billion for the popular VA Choice program and expands benefits for veteran caregivers.

“This legislation must be passed, and if Congress fails to act veterans will pay for that failure,” Roe said in a statement.

“The VA MISSION Act is appropriately named, as it will put the department back on track to fulfilling President Lincoln’s promise to care for the men and women who have borne the battle. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to move this important package through the legislative process and to the president’s desk,” he said.

The measure was originally negotiated as part of the colossal federal Omnibus spending bill Congress passed in March, but was eventually stripped from the spending package when House Democrats pushed back claiming the process was too rushed.

It remains unclear if House or Senate Democrats will support the reforms this time around, but AMVETS has already thrown their support behind it. 

The VA MISSION Act comes just off the heels of Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie warning lawmakers in a letter last week that the Veterans Choice Program is set to run out of money in early June.

The House committee will meet Tuesday, May 8 to debate the bill and see if they want to bring it to the House floor for a vote.

There appears to be wide support among Republicans for the proposed reforms and President Donald Trump tweeted that “Congress must fund Choice Program by Memorial Day so VETS can get the care they deserve.”