President Trump on Wednesday signed the VA Mission Act, a new bill that seeks to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs and provide more healthcare options to veterans.
The $55 billion bill will change how the VA pays for private care, expand a VA caregiver program for pre-9/11 vets and start the process of reviewing the overall infrastructure of the VA itself.
The bill saw overwhelming bipartisan support last month passing in both chambers of Congress, and the legislation follows through with one of Trump’s major campaign promises to allow veterans more options for healthcare in the private sector.
“In the campaign, I also promised that we would fight for Veterans Choice,” Trump said in a speech before signing the bill. “It just seemed to be common sense.”
“It seemed like if they’re waiting on line for nine days and they can’t see a doctor, why aren’t they going outside to see a doctor and take care of themselves, and we pay the bill? It’s less expensive for us, it works out much better, and it’s immediate care. And that’s what we’re doing. So we’re allowing our veterans to get access to the best medical care available, whether it’s at the VA or at a private provider,” Trump said.
“We must always protect those who protect us. Today, it was my great honor to sign the #VAMissionAct and to make Veterans Choice the permanent law of the land,” Trump tweeted.
Some of the major points of the bill include the consolidation and revision of a number of VA healthcare programs, an expansion in veterans’ private sector healthcare options, and an intention to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs as a whole.
Trump’s pick to lead the VA, Robert Wilkie, would lead these efforts if he is confirmed.
“What a beautiful word that is — choice — and freedom to our amazing veterans,” Trump said. “All during the campaign I’d go out and say, ‘Why can’t they just go see a doctor instead of standing in line for weeks and weeks and weeks?’ Now they can go see a doctor.”
“If the VA can’t meet the needs of a veteran in a timely manner, that veteran will have the right to go right outside to a private doctor,” Trump continued.
The legislation also expands healthcare coverage to pre-9/11 veterans. Previously, the cost of in-home caregivers and other benefits were provided only to those who served after 9/11.