On Wednesday, April 19, 2017 President Trump signed an extension of the Veterans Choice Act. There is an estimated $950,000,000 left of the original allotment. The action taken on Wednesday made it possible for the Choice Program to continue operating.
There has been a lot misinformation spread about this action, it is important to note this bill did not include any changes to the current Choice Program. It was an act to extend the authorization of the program implemented in 2014. The only other change was to allow the VA to serve as a primary, instead of secondary payer when working with a Veteran who also has private health insurance.
The real work of improving the Choice Program can now begin in earnest, as Congress will not have to worry about the program losing its authorization. The DAV of MN was recently a part of the discussion on how to improve Veterans Choice. DAV of MN Legislative Director Trent Dilks and NSO Supervisor Jon Retzer were invited to be a part of a roundtable discussion with Senior Presidential Advisor on Veterans Affairs Jake Leinenkugel and the VA Undersecretary of Community Care in Minneapolis.
The discussion was centered on what has and has not worked with the current program. Included in the discussion were six representatives from Minnesota Veterans Service Organizations and two MN CVSO’s. When asked to summarize the nature of the discussion Trent Dilks said,
“We had a great opportunity to have a discussion with someone who has the President’s ear on Veterans issues and I think we had a high quality discussion. The topic was how to improve Veterans Choice and our message was consistent and clear, we believe community care should be coordinated with the VA. The providers who offer these services need to be paid in a timely manner. Lastly, we let them know they needed to return control over the community care program to the local VA Medical Centers.”
Mr. Dilks went on to explain that by returning control to the local VA they could utilize or build relationships with providers. “It will also allow for local accountability in the process” Mr. Dilks explained, “Right now when there is a mistake, delay or other issues it seems like even the people in charge aren’t sure who should fix the issue. Local control, instead of random contractors spread across the country, would go a long way towards resolving problems in a timely manner.”
The full text of the Bill President Trump signed into law on Wednesday can be found here-
Please contact Trent Dilks at Trent@davmn.org with any questions or concerns.