- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2018

The White House voiced its support Monday night for a House bill that would overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs and provide $5.2 billion for a veterans’ “choice” health-care program that is due to run out of funding in June.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the legislation, called the VA MISSION Act of 2018, “will transform the Department of Veterans Affairs into a modern, high-performing, and integrated healthcare system that will ensure our veterans receive the best healthcare possible from the VA, whether delivered in the VA’s own facilities or in the community.”

Congressional Democrats had blocked an earlier version of the measure in March, saying it would pave the way for privatizing veterans’ health care programs.

President Trump said earlier he would sign the bill. The Choice program allows veterans who don’t live near a VA facility or can’t get an appointment in a timely manner to seek medical care from private health-care providers.

Mrs. Sanders said the bill, to be voted on Tuesday by the House Veterans Affairs Committee, will “ensure veterans continue to receive care through the Choice program until the new, consolidated “community care” program for veterans takes effect. It would also mandate an inventory review of the VA’s facilities.

“The president is committed to strengthening the VA healthcare system and offering veterans their choice of the best care to fit their individual clinical needs,” she said.

The administration and Congress have been working on the measure with veterans’ groups through turmoil at the top of the VA. Mr. Trump fired VA Secretary David Shulkin last month, and his new nominee, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, withdrew from consideration after allegations of misconduct surfaced.

The president has not announced another nominee.

The legislation “is critical to ensuring veterans have timely access to the care they have earned and deserve,” said Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars.

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