Wednesday morning, Governor Rick Scott will join the president for a bill signing of the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act at the White House. Last Congress, I was pleased to have my legislation - the Support Our Military Caregivers Act - pass the House of Representatives and I urge Secretary Shulkin to support this bill as we seek to have it passed and signed into law.
The president said he will hold a press conference next week to address further plans on veterans' issues.
Veterans would not be bound by current restrictions under the VA's Choice program, which limits outside care to those who have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or have to drive more than 40 miles to a facility.
"We need to make sure the Choice Program continues, but it works better for veterans", Shulkin said.
Scott and Sutphin then met privately with VA Secretary David Shulkin after the ceremony.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said more than 1 million veterans have made 7 million appointments with health care providers in their communities under the Choice Program.
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"The veterans have poured out their sweat and blood and tears for this country for so long and it's time that they are recognized and it's time that we now take care of them and take care of them properly", he said. "And 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".
The new law also calls for changes to alleviate some problems by speeding up VA payments and promoting greater sharing of medical records.
It's a fix that hasn't fixed much, but the troubled Veterans Choice program has been extended anyway. No veteran should worry they won't be able to get the care they need.
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.
As we work to ensure all veterans have access to care, we must develop an informed, strategic plan for the future of veteran healthcare through the VA.