Trump extends private-sector health care program for vets

CVS drugstore and pharmacy in Philadelphia. Three years after a wait-time scandal the Veterans Affairs Department is hoping a private-sector partnership with the CVS Pharmacy chain will reduce some of

President Donald Trump on Wednesday moved a step closer to fulfilling his campaign promise to reform the troubled Veterans Affairs department, but some veterans groups are concerned that the administration may be working toward privatizing their healthcare.

North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, applauded the decision by Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to suspend revocations and launch an internal review of the VA Caregiver program. Under the bill, the VA will be allowed to operate its Choice program until the funding runs out.

"The doctor of their choice - and don't have to wait and travel long distances for VA care", Trump said of the bill Wednesday.

It was set to expire on August 7, even though about $1 billion in funding is still available through the program.

"We must never go back to the pre-scandal days where a VA bureaucrat had the final say as to where and when a veteran got their health care". Lucas said the Choice Program was a well-intentioned "quick fix" to the Phoenix scandal, but that it remains flawed and has forced too many veterans to seek care at what he termed failing VA facilities.

Media outlets had reported that VA medical centers were cutting off caregiver benefits to families, possibly violating the department's rules.

In the statement Monday, Poonam Alaigh, acting VA under secretary for health, said the VA was "focused on process improvements".

Mr. Trump called the law a good start but acknowledged "there is still much work to do".

Shulkin has said he would like to expand veterans' access to private care by eliminating the Choice Program's current 30-day, 40-mile restrictions.

"One of the more prevalent and frustrating stories we hear over and over is a caregiver's inability to prove the monotonous duties they take on caring for loved ones with mental and emotional wounds", said Steve Schwab, executive director of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, which advocates for caregiver support.

The Family Caregiver Program, mandated by Congress in 2010, was created to help support family members caring for seriously-wounded veterans in the post-9/11 era.

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