Trump signs bill to expand private care for veterans

President Donald Trump at a rally at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Nashville Tenn

President Donald Trump is fighting a bipartisan plan to fund the much-touted expansion of veterans health care he signed into law Wednesday, as the White House argues against a boost in federal spending to fund the new initiative.

The US Veterans Administration now serves some nine million veterans across America.

The measure builds on legislation passed in 2014 in response to a wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments. "We still have work to do to support and improve VA, but this bill is an important step forward to provide for our veterans and the people who care for them".

"Montana veterans deserve more than a thank you - they deserve a health care system that works for them, whether it's at a VA clinic or a local community doctor", said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. Among other features, it will also provide support and benefits to the caregivers of severely disabled veterans who served before 9/11, thus extending to them the same long overdue benefits that their Post-9/11 counterparts receive. Some fear that allowing veterans this "unfettered" choice will open the door to a purposeful and preconceived divestment effort that runs along ideological fault lines and will erode VA's capacity to provide care as veterans increasingly opt for non-VA care. He said that consolidating the multiple private care programs that exist now should control the new bill's costs.

The legislation had the support of almost 40 major veterans groups, who in a letter before the bill passed the House described it as a "major step" toward the goal of ensuring timely and seamless health care for veterans.

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"I'm seeing a lot of progress with health care, more positive news about health care for all Americans", Jim Wingerter said. VA has said its medical facilities are "often 40 percent better in terms of wait times" compared with the private sector.

The VA Mission Act of 2018 will spend more than $50 billion to help expand veterans' options when it comes to getting the medical care they need.

It's expected to take another year before a new single program is up and running.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican, is leading the group that seeks a separate spending stream to fund the VA Mission Act.

The Mission Act was rooted in Congressional efforts to improve veterans' services prompted more than four years ago when a whistleblower revealed a common practice of falsely reporting dates to make it appear as if services were provided in a much shorter period than what actually occurred, Roe recalled.

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