Trump signs bill to expand private care for veterans

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WASHINGTON (AP/WJHL) — President Donald Trump has signed a bill into law that will expand private care for veterans as an alternative to the troubled Veterans Affairs health system.

At a Rose Garden event, Trump praised the legislation as helping to achieve his campaign pledge to fix the VA by bringing accountability and widening access to private doctors.

He said for veterans who have been standing “in line for weeks and weeks” seeking care at VA, “now they can go see a doctor.”

The $51 billion measure builds on legislation passed in 2014 in response to a scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments.

It will allow veterans, with the approval of a VA provider, to see private doctors when they do not receive treatment they expected.

U.S. Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, released the following statement after President Trump signed the legislation:

“Today is a great day. For the last year and a half, I’ve been working tirelessly with the president, members of the Trump administration and my colleagues in the House and Senate to move bipartisan reforms through Congress that will deliver on the promises we’ve made to our nation’s heroes. Together, we’ve been able to modernize the appeals process, bring true accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs and give student veterans the largest expansion of GI Bill benefits since the GI Bill was created.

“Today, we’re delivering again on those promises by moving toward a veteran-centric health care system that marries the best of VA with the best of the private sector so veterans can finally have timely access to the quality care they have earned. Moving the VA MISSION Act wasn’t easy, but because of the commitment of Senators Isakson and Tester, our veterans service organization partners and leadership in the House and Senate we are able to answer the president’s call to give veterans more options for health care. As we celebrate this historic win for veterans, we are reminded of the work ahead. Implementing these major reforms will require vigorous oversight to ensure VA has the tools it needs to continue working to change the way the department cares for the men and women who have borne the battle.  

“The VA MISSION Act is a transformational piece of legislation, and it was my great privilege to name this measure in honor of three American patriots who have never wavered in their commitment to serve veterans: Senators Akaka and McCain and Congressman Johnson. Again, I thank President Trump, the members of his administration past and present who have worked on the VA MISSION Act including former Secretary Shulkin and former Acting Secretary Wilkie, Senators Isakson and Tester, veterans service organizations and leadership in the House and Senate. I’d also like to thank my ranking member, Rep. Tim Walz. While we were unable to come to a final agreement on this measure, Ranking Member Walz provided valuable feedback throughout the legislative process, and I appreciate his friendship.”

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