By Jack Dusik
Doctors of chiropractic treating veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans Choice Program (VCP) received good news on Aug. 1, with Senate approval of the “VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017.”
The bill passed without objection on the heels of House action last week, which approved the measure overwhelmingly, 414-0.
Lawmakers originally designed the program to end August 2017, or whenever funding ran out. But, recognizing the popularity and high usage of the program, lawmakers agreed in April to extend the authorization period, which they said was necessary to access an estimated $200 million that remains in the fund after August.
The act directs $2.1 billion to the VCP to keep it operating through January 2018, preventing a disruption of care for veterans in the program as Congress continues to work on a broader overhaul.
The VCP was created to enable eligible veterans to seek care in the private sector if they live 40 miles from a VA facility or have to wait for more than 30 days for an appointment.
With congressional action complete, the bill now heads to the president, who is expected to sign the overwhelmingly bipartisan bill.
The Trump administration wants to see VCP continue — the president’s budget request outlined $2.9 billion in mandatory budget authority for fiscal 2018 and $3.5 billion in fiscal 2019. But recent negotiations over extending the Choice program suggest funneling mandatory funds to the program isn’t always going to be easy.
Be assured that ACA government relations staff continue to monitor the Veterans Choice Program and will report progress on the broader overhaul as it develops.
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Jack Dusik is senior director of federal government relations at the American Chiropractic Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.