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Offbeat Millions of vets get VA-funded private-sector care through program set to run out of money

18:22  17 may  2018
18:22  17 may  2018 Source:   usatoday.com

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New data show more than 1 million veterans annually rely on a program to get VA - funded private sector medical care , but the program could run out of money in If it fails, Congress could pass a stopgap measure to keep the program funded past May 31, when it is expected to run out of money .

More than a million veterans annually have come to rely on a Department of Veterans Affairs program to get private - sector medical care at VA expense, a

The Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington The Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington WASHINGTON — More than a million veterans annually have come to rely on a Department of Veterans Affairs program to get private-sector medical care at VA expense, a program that is set to run out of funding in two weeks, according to data provided to USA TODAY.

Populous states with large veteran populations like Texas, California, Florida and Arizona notched the highest numbers of veterans who have used the so-called Choice program since it was created in 2014 after veterans died waiting for medical care at the Phoenix VA hospital.

More rural or remote states like Alaska, Hawaii and Montana showed higher percentages of their veterans relied on Choice, which allows veterans to get VA-funded health care in the private sector if they have to wait longer than 30 days for a VA appointment or live more than 40 miles from a VA health care facility.

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1 million use VA program set to run out of money . WASHINGTON – More than a million veterans annually rely on a Department of Veterans Affairs program to get private - sector medical care at VA expense, a program set to run out of funding in two weeks, according to data provided

It's set to run out of funding in two weeks. In all, 2 million veterans have used the program since its inception, including 550,000 so far this year. It's set to run out of funding in two weeks.

In all, 2 million veterans have used the program since its inception, including 550,000 so far this year.

The House overwhelmingly passed legislation Wednesday that would make the program permanent and provide the necessary funding, and it appears poised to pass the Senate, which could take it up next week.

The bill drew opposition from a key House Democrat, Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., the highest-ranking Democrat on the House VA committee, who said it could undermine the VA by diverting money to the private sector. But more than 100 Democrats joined Republicans to pass the bill.

The legislation combines the Choice program with six others that allow veterans to get private-sector medical care at government expense and tasks the VA with creating rules for obtaining outside care.

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It's set to run out of funding in two weeks. In all, 2 million veterans have used the program since its inception, including 550,000 so far this year. It's set to run out of funding in two weeks.

It's set to run out of funding in two weeks. In all, 2 million veterans have used the program since its inception, including 550,000 so far this year. It's set to run out of funding in two weeks.

It also creates a commission to assess VA assets and make recommendations about which medical facilities are worth repairing, where new ones might be needed and where others might be shuttered and private-sector care provided.

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Montana Sen. Jon Tester, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate VA committee, has said he supports the measure. So do more than two dozen veterans’ groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled Veterans of America and the American Legion.

“We strongly encourage the U.S. Senate to pass this important legislation swiftly,” said Denise Rohan, national commander for the Legion.

But federal employee unions are dead set against the bill and have urged lawmakers to reject it.

House votes to expand veterans' access to private care

  House votes to expand veterans' access to private care House lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation expanding veterans' access to private care at taxpayer expense, a campaign promise of President Donald Trump, and adding more money to the "Choice program" weeks before VA officials said it could run out of money. The $51 billion plan that passed 347-70 Wednesday includes $5.2 billion for the VA Choice program that funds private care. VA officials have warned that the program could run out of money as early as the end of the month, disrupting care for patients. Hours before the House vote, Trump weighed in, urging lawmakers to back the bill.

Millions of vets get VA - funded private - sector care through program set to run out of money https://buff.ly/2rPjmfm #tmbmafioso.

New data shows more than one million veterans annually are relying on a program to get VA - funded private sector medical care , but the program could run out of money in two weeks if Congress Ronny Jackson, Trump VA pick, drops out of bid to run Veterans Affairs - www.usatoday.com.

“This legislation kicks the door wide open to VA privatization, no matter what its supporters claim," American Federation of Government Employees President David Cox said.

If it passes the Senate as appears likely, it would be a significant legislative victory for President Trump, who repeatedly promised during his campaign to overhaul the VA and expand veterans’ options to get VA-funded care from the private sector.

“Who will stand with our Great Vets, caregivers, and Veterans Service Organizations?” Trump tweeted before the House vote Wednesday. “Must get Choice passed by Memorial Day!”

If it fails, Congress could pass a stopgap measure to keep the program funded past May 31, when it is expected to run out of money. Lawmakers have passed two such measures in the past year.

But if they don’t, the Choice data from recent years illustrates just how many veterans could be stuck waiting again or traveling long distances for VA care without the program. Here's how the numbers stack up:

States with the highest number of veterans who used Choice in 2017:

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• Texas: 103,671

• California: 87,818

• Florida: 74,420

• Arizona: 51,539

• North Carolina: 45,419

States where the largest percentages of VA enrollees used Choice:

• Alaska: 10,861 (33%)

• Hawaii: 14,435 (31%)

• Montana: 15,195 (30%)

• Idaho: 16,785 (28%)

• North Dakota: 7,555 (27%)

While the VA was able to accommodate veterans within 30 days at its medical facilities for 92% of appointments as of March 1, more than 740,000 veterans still were waiting longer than a month for VA appointments, VA data show.

Here’s the full list by state of the numbers of veterans who relied on the Choice program in 2017 because the VA could not meet their needs in a timely or convenient way:

• Alabama:14,790

• Alaska: 10,861

• Arizona: 51,539

• Arkansas: 13,089

• California: 87,818

• Colorado: 33,432

• Connecticut: 4,172

• Delaware: 2,842

• District of Columbia: 840

• Florida: 74,420

• Georgia: 39,865

• Hawaii: 14,435

• Idaho: 16,785

• Illinois: 21,600

• Indiana: 19,903

• Iowa: 10,818

• Kansas: 16,478

• Kentucky: 23,308

• Louisiana: 26,605

• Maine: 12,912

• Maryland: 10,083

• Massachusetts: 9,030

• Michigan: 24,955

• Minnesota: 17,052

• Mississippi: 21,044

• Missouri: 32,039

• Montana: 15,195

• Nebraska: 8,477

• Nevada: 21,477

• New Hampshire: 7,290

• New Jersey: 7,801

• New Mexico: 20,146

• New York: 24,175

• North Carolina: 45,419

• North Dakota: 7,555

• Ohio: 30,512

• Oklahoma: 22,506

• Oregon: 32,037

• Pennsylvania: 28,619

• Rhode Island: 1,676

• South Carolina: 15,640

• South Dakota: 7,011

• Tennessee: 44,439

• Texas: 103,671

• Utah: 8,115

• Vermont: 2,361

• Virginia: 26,334

• Washington: 43,575

• West Virginia: 12,359

• Wisconsin: 17,557

• Wyoming: 5,499

Senate sends major VA reform bill to Trump's desk .
The Senate easily cleared legislation on Wednesday overhauling medical care options for veterans, sending the bill to President Trump's desk.Senators voted 92-5 on the proposal, termed the VA Mission Act, with only a simple majority needed to pass the bill. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mike Rounds ( R-S.D.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) voted against the legislation.With its passage, the bill will meet Trump's public deadline and arrive on his desk before Congress departs for a week-long Memorial Day recess. The bill passed the House last week in a 347-70 vote.

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