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Veterans Choice Program Extended by Senate Through January 2018

Crapo Cosponsored Legislation to Extend Program to Meet Veteran Demand

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation cosponsored by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo to continue providing Idaho veterans with options to access their earned care benefits unanimously passed the United States Senate on Monday evening.  The bipartisan bill, introduced by Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), will extend the Veterans Choice Program through January 2018 until Congress can pass a longer term fix. 

In 2014, the Senate passed the original Veterans Choice Program, or Choice program, following news reports of negligence on the part of hospitals administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) including falsifying records to show that patients were seen within a specified period of time and maintaining waitlists.  The Choice program is scheduled to end in August 2017.  With the extension to 2018, the bill would allow veterans to continue to go outside the VA system to receive care if they meet certain criteria.  These include having to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or having to drive more than 40 miles to receive care at a VA facility.

“Through my veterans surveys and more than 200 town meetings, I have heard from Idaho’s veterans frequently about the inability to access their earned medical benefits from VA providers,” said Crapo.  “Adding to this frustration is that often, local care options exist that can provide the same level of care obtained at a VA hospital and in a faster timeframe.  This bill is a stop-gap as I continue to work with my colleagues to enact long-term solutions to the challenges faced by veterans, especially in rural areas, where distance factors considerably in veterans’ access to care.”

The Veterans Choice extension is now slated to go to the House of Representatives this week.

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