- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2017

House Republican leaders were working Tuesday on a plan B to fund the popular “Veterans Choice” health care plan after the full House rejected a bill Monday night.

House Veterans Affairs’ Committee Chairman David P. Roe, Tennessee Republican, is talking with senators and Democratic lawmakers “about the path forward,” said committee spokeswoman Tiffany Haverly.

“He is committed to getting this done so veterans can have the certainty and access to care they’ve earned and deserve,” she said.

Other Republican aides said they expect the House to vote again on the measure by the end of the week.

President Trump, visiting an AMVETS post Tuesday night in Youngstown, Ohio, told veterans that his administration has improved health care in the VA system.

“The system has been fixed,” Mr. Trump said.

The House failed to pass a measure Monday night that would have shifted about $2 billion in the Department of Veterans Affairs budget to fund the “Choice” program, which is projected to run out of money in mid-August. The program allows veterans who live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA hospital or can’t get an appointment in the VA system for more than 30 days to seek care from a private doctor at government expense.

The measure was supported by a majority of 219 to 186, but under the rules invoked by Republican leaders, a two-thirds majority was needed to advance the measure. Democrats and veterans groups came out against it.

Mr. Roe said it was a needed solution to the problem.

“We know that veteran demand for care through Choice has never been higher and, consequently, the remaining money in the Veterans Choice Program will run out in mid-August, a few short weeks from now,” he said. “We cannot allow that to happen.”

One option now would be to bring up the measure under different rules for a simple majority vote, but Republican leaders were still discussing how to proceed before the House departs for its traditional August recess.

A majority of veterans’ groups say the bill would have diverted money within the VA system without addressing other needed reforms at the agency.

Created as a response to the 2014 scandal over the falsifying of patient wait times at VA facilities, the Choice program was designed to give veterans an option to see private doctors in their communities. Both parties and most veterans groups agree that the program has helped veterans but needs fixes.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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