Trump Signs Executive Order to Help Veterans Get Better Access to Healthcare

Caroline Beck
April 20, 2017

Phoenix VA HCS nurses will be allowed to refer Veterans to MinuteClinic but only for the management of minor illnesses and injuries. Mr. Trump's choice of Shulkin, the VA's former undersecretary of health, to head the VA was an indication to some Republicans that Mr. Trump did not plan to fundamentally gut and reshape the VA's structure.

Patients can use the choice program if they lived more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or can't get an appointment within the span of 30 days.

U.S. President Donald Trump smiles after signing S.544, the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act, at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017. "Congress now has some time to work with Shulkin on broader, more permanent choice reforms".

The bigger reforms the VA wants to make following this extension bill will be aimed at fixing more than a half-dozen other systems the VA has for purchasing care from the private sector.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a long-time advocate of veterans' expanded access to private care, lauded the new initiative as an "important step forward". In the wake of the bad scandal in care at the Phoenix VA and VA hospitals around the country, we made a promise that our veterans would never again be forced to face unacceptable wait-times for appointments, or drive unreasonable distances, to get the care they need.

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In a statement, VA Secretary David Shulkin said the move is needed "to ensure we honor our commitment to enhance the health and well-being of veterans". They cited the feedback of local veterans and the success of a smaller test run with CVS past year in Palo Alto, Calif.

The move comes two weeks after an NPR report that dozens of regional medical centers were cutting back on the number of families receiving caregiver benefits, possibly against VA rules.

In 2014, the US Congress passed the Veterans Choice Act, which enables veterans who face long waits or distances to see a doctor of their choice.

The new law also calls for changes to alleviate some problems by speeding up VA payments and promoting greater sharing of medical records.

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