President Donald Trump yesterday signed a bill that temporarily extends a program allowing some veterans to seek medical care from private doctors and hospitals.
The action will allow the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to continue its Choice Program until funding runs out, which is expected early next year, according to the Associated Press.
Trump said veterans have "not been taken care of properly" and that the program, which would have ended Aug. 7, will allow them to continue to be able to see "the doctor of their choice," according to the article.
The extension will give new VA Secretary David Shulkin time to develop a long-term plan that allows veterans to more easily obtain medical care outside the VA health system. The government put the Choice Program in place after a 2014 scandal that revealed lengthy waits for appointments at VA hospitals, resulting in as many as 40 deaths as veterans waited for medical care at the Phoenix VA medical center.
The program allows veterans to seek care in the private sector in cases where they have to wait more than 30 days for an appointment in the VA network or if they must drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. During his confirmation hearing in February, Shulkin said he would have based the program on clinical or urgent care needs.