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Letter to the Editor: Veteran’s Choice bill is long overdue

Eric Batsie

A new solution to solve the Veteran’s Affairs problems. Yesterday, President Trump signed into law the “Veteran’s Choice Program Improvement Act.” The bill is designed to extend and improve the existing veteran’s choice program, in order to allow more veterans to see a doctor of their choice and will not be forced to travel long distances to VA hospitals and clinics.

Many veterans are undoubtedly applauding this bill as we have long heard of the long lines and even longer waiting time for follow up care at many VA’s. However, first to note, this is not at every VA site. Many are operating within acceptable time frames and providing great care. We should also not forget this revises, and makes permanent the Veterans Choice Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This bill is really the VA trying to help fix itself. However a casual reader may think it’s a sweeping stroke of the presidential pen fixing the VA. This bill is the culmination of a two year pilot program, the Veteran’s Choice Act begun in 2014 under President Obama.

This new bill eliminates various shortcomings and barriers under the 2014 bill. Under the 2014 bill, a veteran had to live more than 40 miles from a VA facility to qualify, or if an appointment at an existing VA wasn’t possible to be made within 30 days.

In retrospect, it would appear, the good VA facilities stayed good and the VA facilities struggling; lost more patients. This bill was not a permanent fix, but it was a step in the right direction.

Veteran’s deserve our best physical and mental health care. That we have not got it right yet is a shame for all of us. But let’s be sure to share our victory and thank Congress, the Senate and all the Veteran’s who got this bill on the president’s desk and him for signing. I wonder who received the pen? I think we should give it to the oldest Veteran and say, this is long long overdue and we apologize, again.

Eric is an MSW student at the University. 

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