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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Tester Supports Trump's Extension Of Veterans Choice

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

President Trump signed a bill today to temporarily extend a troubled program designed to allow veterans to get medical care in the private sector.

During Wednesday’s signing ceremony, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin praised the extension of the Veterans Choice program.

“This is a great day to celebrate not only what veterans have contributed to the country, but how we’re making things better for them," says Shulkin. "By working together we’re going to continue this progress.”

President Obama signed the Veterans Choice program into law in August of 2014. It was Washington’s  $10 billion answer to reports that some vets waited an inordinately long time for healthcare.

It didn’t work out so well. Many vets complained it made getting that care more of a hassle. Doctors and clinics said it sometimes took months to get paid under the program.

Veterans Choice was set to expire in August. So why extend a program that, arguably, caused more problems than it solved?

“We need to make the healthcare part of it work smoother; cut the red tape and make sure that it’s easy to work with the providers," says Montana's Democratic Senator Jon Tester who co-sponsored the extension plan. "I think we’ll get more providers jumping on board and we’ll get more veterans using it if the time to set up those appointments is reduced dramatically.”

Veterans Affairs Secretary Shulkin says officials will now work to develop a long term plan to allow vets to go outside the VA system and get easier access to private healthcare. That plan is due in the fall. Congress would have to approve any changes to the VA system.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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