VA Choice Running Out of Money Early

Washington Report

(June 27, 2017) The Department of Veterans Affairs Choice program that allows veterans to seek care from private providers is short of cash. VA Secretary David Shulkin received a scolding from senators last week when he made that announcement to a Senate appropriations panel.

He said the program has been utilized more often than predicted and could run out of money by mid-August. The program was created in 2014 with $10 billion and was set to end Aug. 7. In April, Congress voted to extend the program because VA officials said $1 billion would remain on that date.

But Shulkin told lawmakers last week that estimates were off.

“On financial projections, we have to do better,” he said, according to press reports. However, he said the VA could shift funds in its budget to cover the shortfall.

Unhappy senators believe a congressional bailout is necessary. In a letter to the VA, four Republican senators wrote, “Unless Congress appropriates emergency funding to continue the Veterans Choice Program, hundreds of thousands of veterans who rely on the Choice Card will be sent back to a VA that cannot effectively manage or coordinate their care.”

The VA has already instructed its facilities to limit the number of veterans sent to non-VA medical providers.