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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Tester Bill Gives VA Bigger Role In Veterans Choice Program

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Tester Bills Gives VA Bigger Role Veterans Choice Program

Three years after Congress created the Veterans Choice healthcare program, it continues to flounder.

Here’s Montana Senator Jon Tester, who helped create Veterans Choice:
"As I've traveled around Montana and around the country I've heard a lot about how the Veterans Choice program is just not working as advertised."

Veterans Choice is supposed to let vets who live far away from a VA health facility, or who face
long wait times to get VA care, make appointments with local health care providers instead.

Those goals have largely not been met. Tester and Senator Steve Daines have both been very critical of the private contractor that runs Veterans Choice in Montana and most other states.

Tester is now introducing a bill to give the VA a bigger role in Choice:

"And we've got a bi-partisan bill that really cuts the red tape, gives more flexibility, and I think the end result is going to be a much better Choice program for our veterans," Tester says.

A second Tester bill aims to increase transparency and accountability for companies that contract with the VA to provide veterans services.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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