Trump signs new VA bill

Jim Wingerter, a former Marine who spent time in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, said easier access to health care for veterans is important. It will allow veterans to receive services from private providers, creates a stipend program for caregivers of disabled veterans from any conflict, puts a process in motion to streamline the VA itself and encourages doctor and other medical professionals to join the VA system.

However, the administration says the creation of new funding is unnecessary and can be taken elsewhere from existing appropriations, after Congress recently approved a $67 billion increase in spending for nondefense programs in fiscal year 2019.

"I compared it to putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound", said Burch.

The measure will also expand the VA's Caregiver Stipend Program for the families of disabled veterans, and do away with restrictions that limit private and community care to veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or have to wait more than 30 days for an appointment.

The White House is pressuring Republican lawmakers not to support the new spending that they say will bust spending caps and rack up more debt. Without passage of the veterans funding bill soon, lawmakers and veterans groups warn that Veterans Affairs will be forced to make hard trade-offs about which programs should be funded. Many Democrats, traditional veterans service organizations and federal employee unions adamantly oppose the goal of giving veterans unfettered options to choose private doctors, arguing that such a change would starve VA's vast system of government health care, the country's largest.

"So it's now my great honor to sign the great VA Mission Act, or as we all know it, the Choice Act".

"I'm seeing a lot of progress with health care, more positive news about health care for all Americans", Jim Wingerter said.

The $51 billion measure builds on legislation passed in 2014 in response to a scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments. "The decision of where you get your care will be, as it should be, between you, your doctor and the VA", he said.

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

The VA MISSION Act was passed by both houses of Congress earlier this year, fulfilling a key campaign promise by the President who repeatedly pledged to allow United States veterans the right to access healthcare from non-VA operated hospitals.

"Without subjecting the program to any budgetary constraint, there is no incentive to continue to serve veterans with innovative, streamlined, and efficient quality of care", according to the memo obtained by The Associated Press. Erica Werner has worked at The Washington Post since 2017, covering Congress with a focus on economic policy.

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