VA Choice Program Nearly Out of Funds

NGAUS Washington Report
May 1, 2018

The Department of Veterans Affairs program that allows veterans to receive medical care from private providers and send the bill to the VA will run out of money in a few weeks, the acting secretary of the agency has warned lawmakers.

Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a letter Friday that the Choice program will run out of money “in approximately the first two weeks of June,” according to Military Times. Veterans taking part in the program will begin receiving letters soon telling them that the program could be shut down in a few weeks.

In a statement released to the press, Wilkie said, “America’s veterans need Congress to come together to support this crucial program and pass legislation that will make it permanent. There is simply no denying how vital community providers are to VA’s mission. Without community care, VA’s ability to provide timely, high quality health care to Veterans will be dramatically diminished. . . . We cannot wait any longer.”

The VA says it needs $1.3 billion to keep the program active until the fall, but $3.6 billion to fund the program through fiscal 2019, the publication reported.

The Choice program was created by Congress in 2014 when veterans complained of long wait times for appointments and VA administrators were discovered to have falsified schedules to hide the problem. Choice is available for veterans who live 40 miles from a VA facility or who wait 30 days or more for care.

Congress has approved additional funds for the program multiple times while trying to find a permanent fix. This crisis comes when the agency continues without a permanent director. President Donald Trump fired David Shulkin last month. His nomination of Adm. (Dr.) Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, fell apart under claims of unprofessional behavior.