(Big Sandy, Mont.) - President Donald Trump today signed into law U.S. Senator Jon Tester's bipartisan legislation to begin to improve the Veterans Choice Program in Montana.
Tester's Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act cuts red tape for veterans seeking health care closer to home by making the VA the primary payer under the Choice Program, which will reduce out-of-pocket costs for veterans and align the Choice Program with the VA's other community care programs. Tester's bill recently passed both the Senate and House of Representatives unanimously, and is now one of the first pieces of legislation signed into law by President Trump.
"Montana veterans have told me time and again that they had to jump over too many hurdles with the Choice Program," said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "This law will take critical steps to begin to fix the Choice Program so it works for veterans and community providers across Montana. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents put politics aside and supported this bill because it cuts red tape for our veterans and improves access to health care for the folks who served. Moving forward, I will continue to work with veterans and my colleagues to reform the Choice Program so it works on the ground in Montana."
Tester's bill was cosponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas).
Montanans praised Tester's efforts to improve veterans access to health care.
"I thank you for your continuing efforts on behalf of our veterans," Darlene from Missoula wrote to Tester. "Thank you for getting the U.S. Congress to put politics aside and unanimously pass your bipartisan legislation."
"The Montana Chiropractic Association thanks Senator Tester for his efforts to remedy some of the shortcomings of the Choice Program," said Dr. Marc Nynas, President of the MCA. "Senator Tester has heard our concerns that the shortcomings of the Choice Program have made it hard for veterans to seek and receive appropriate care. Getting veterans the care they need is really what it's all about and Senator Tester's law and his efforts to put scheduling back in the hands of VA Montana will provide the veterans the care they need and deserve and providers will be paid for their services in a timely manner."
The Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act is a part of Tester's three-pronged approach to improving the Choice Program in Montana.
Tester also successfully pushed VA Montana to schedule appointments for veterans directly, instead of forcing them to go through government contractors like Health Net. Because of Tester's efforts, veterans enrolled in the Choice Program will soon be able to schedule appointments with their local doctor directly through VA Montana, which will reduce wait times for veterans and local health care providers.
Tester also introduced the PACT Act to make contracts between the VA and private contractors like Health Net publically available.
A summary of Tester's efforts to improve the VA Choice Program in Montana can be found HERE.