Local veterans react to VA Mission Act of 2018

Trump signs VA reform bill without Democratic co-author

Now only veterans who endure waits of at least 30 days - not nine days - for an appointment at a VA facility are eligible to receive care from private doctors at government expense.

The legislation also expands a "Caregivers Program" to cover families of veterans of all eras, not just those injured in the line of duty since 2001.

"We're allowing our veterans to get access to the best medical care available, whether it's at the VA or at a private provider", Trump said at Wednesday's signing ceremony.

But the White House has engaged in a quiet effort to thwart the senators' plan, encouraging lawmakers to vote it down and instead asking Congress to pay for the veterans programs by cutting spending elsewhere.

An administration official told the Washington Free Beacon the White House is committed to funding health care for current and future heroes and said the expansion can be paid for under existing spending caps. "I will continue to work to provide veterans with the quality, efficient and timely services they need and have earned". Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"If we implement this bill as Congress has written it, this legislation will be transformational to the VA", Roe, R-1st, of Johnson City, said.

Trump is nominating acting VA secretary Robert Wilkie to permanently lead the government's second-largest department, which serves 9 million veterans.

Phillip Carter, a senior researcher at the Rand Corp., a nonprofit think tank, said the bill creates another unanswered question on cost: It could push up the demand for medical care at VA hospitals as the pressure on them eases with more outside appointments.

The bill was a bipartisan proposal that garnered the support of the White House and 38 veterans service organizations, he added.

The clash over spending for the VA health bill illustrates an ongoing tension between bipartisan deal-making in the Senate, where support from the minority party is necessary on spending bills, and the unwavering conservative opposition to new spending embodied by the Freedom Caucus in the House and now adopted by the White House.

The VA Mission Act aims to develop a high-performance integrated care network by establishing a new community care program, improving physician payment processes, developing education resources for veterans seeking care, and setting patient safety guidelines for opioid prescriptions.

The VA system structure is now based on the way medical services were provided from the 1960s to the 1980s, he said.

Veterans groups cheered the legislation as major step toward improving veterans care.

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