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Trump OKs Veterans Choice bill

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 14. 2017 8:06PM
President Donald Trump, flanked by Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, left, finishes signing the Veterans Affairs Choice and Quality Employment Act at Trump's golf estate in Bedminster, N.J., on Saturday. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

MANCHESTER — President Trump has signed bipartisan legislation that keeps the Veterans Choice program funded for about six months, according to the office of U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H.

The bipartisan VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017 earmarks $2.1 billion to the Choice program and another $1.8 billion to hire health care providers and lease new clinics, the office said. Under Veterans Choice, veterans are allowed to obtain care in the private sector when it is not easily available through a Veteran Affairs hospital or clinic.

The bipartisan bill emerged after the U.S. House rejected legislation that would have funded Veterans Choice from the existing VA health care budget.

“This reauthorization shows what we can accomplish when we put our partisan differences aside for the good of our veterans,” Kuster said in a statement. “This reauthorization is an important step, but I’m committed to working with my colleagues to make the Choice program more effective and successful.”

The VA has estimated the Choice funding will last for about six months, Kuster’s office said.

President Trump signed the legislation Saturday during his working vacation at the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, N.J., according to the Hill newspaper.

“This bill will ensure that veterans continue to have the ability to see a doctor of their choice, so important, and don’t have to wait or travel long distances for care,” Trump said.

Trump touted the bipartisan nature of the legislation and called Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin a star, the Hill reported.

Kuster noted the reauthorization includes a provision, authored by her, that will help make the VA more competitive when hiring physician assistants.

“If we can make the VA more attractive to qualified medical staff, we can improve care and services for our veterans, especially in rural New Hampshire,” Kuster said.

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