(Washington D.C.) – U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga)—Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs—along with U.S. Representatives Phil Roe (R-Tenn) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today applauded the signing by President Donald Trump of critical legislation to ensure veterans have continued access to health care in their own communities.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin informed the Senate VA Committee of an impending shortfall in funds for the Veterans Choice Program at a committee hearing on June 15. In response, Senate and House VA Committee leaders worked together to pass the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017 to authorize and appropriate funding for the VA to continue the Veterans Choice Program and strengthen VA care.
The VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017 passed the House by a vote of 414-0 on July 28, and it was approved by the Senate on August 1.
“This bill will ensure veterans can access critical health care services, whether it’s at the VA or at a nearby community clinic,” said Tester. “It shows what’s possible when we work together, put politics aside, and commit ourselves to honoring those who courageously served our nation.”
“I applaud the president for signing this important piece of legislation to ensure that veterans who utilize the Veterans Choice Program will continue to have access to timely appointments in their own communities,” said Isakson. “I thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for acting swiftly to reach an agreement to keep the program intact as we continue our work on broader reforms to strengthen the future of veterans’ health care.”
“Today is an important day for our nation’s veterans, and I thank President Trump for signing this bipartisan, bicameral legislation into law,” said Roe. “This measure guarantees veterans can continue to access care through the Choice Program while investing in the VA by authorizing major leases and giving the department additional resources to hire and retain top-notch employees. I'm proud of the work being done this Congress on behalf of our heroes, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bring wholesale reform to the VA.”
“Once again, members on both sides of the aisle came together, set aside their differences, and demonstrated their passion for improving the lives of our nation’s 22 million veterans,” Walz said.“A lot of hard work and deliberation went into getting this legislation right for the veteran. As a result, the bipartisan legislation being signed into law today ensures that veterans will be able to seek care in their own community when it makes sense for them, while also making important investments in the VA by expanding the department’s capacity to recruit and retain top of the line physicians and caregivers. I want to thank my friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle as well as our well-respected veterans service organizations for their commitment to those who have bravely served in uniform.”
In addition to providing critical funding to continue the Veterans Choice Program, the legislation also authorizes 28 major medical facility leases and puts in place reforms that strengthen the VA’s ability to recruit, train and retain their workforce.
The 28 major medical facility leases authorized in the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017include Ann Arbor, Mich., Birmingham, Ala., Boston, Mass., Charleston, S.C., Corpus Christi, Texas, Daytona Beach, Fla., Denver, Colo., Fredericksburg, Va., Gainesville, Fla. (two leases), Hampton Roads, Va., Indianapolis, Ind., Jacksonville, Fla., Missoula, Mont., Northern Colorado, Colo., Ocala, Fla., Oxnard, Calif., Pike County, Ga., Pittsburgh, Pa., Portland, Maine, Raleigh, N.C., Rochester, N.Y., San Diego, Calif., Santa Rosa, Calif., Tampa, Fla., Lakeland/Tampa, Fla., Terre Haute, Fla., and Rapid City, S.D.