VA tests partnership with CVS to reduce veterans' wait times

Posted April 20, 2017

The new program, now limited to the Phoenix area, comes three years after the VA faced allegations of chronically long wait times at its centers, including its Phoenix facility, which treats about 120,000 veterans.

Congress established the Choice Program with $10 billion following the VA's 2014 wait-time scandal in order to get veterans quicker access to care.

"President Trump is upholding the promises he made to veterans and we applaud him for continuing to make them a priority", Lucas said. That broader plan would have to be approved by Congress.

Shulkin said the extension is important because it gives veterans another avenue for care.

The bill that passed unanimously through the House and Senate will extend the Veterans Choice Program, so veterans can get care from private doctors. Yet the program itself often encountered long wait times of its own. The bill being signed by Trump seeks to alleviate some of the problems by helping speed up VA payments and promote greater sharing of medical records.

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Acting VA Under Secretary for Health Poonam Alaigh said in a statement that the goal of the review is to identify "process improvements and support services" for caregivers in the program. Those groups generally oppose privatization as a threat to the viability of VA medical centers.

The president stressed that veterans have not been taken care of properly and pledged to bring about additional positive changes.

"This is a good day for veterans", he said.

It's a fix that hasn't fixed much, but the troubled Veterans Choice program has been extended anyway. Mr. Trump's choice of Shulkin, the VA's former undersecretary of health, to head the VA was an indication to some Republicans that Mr. Trump did not plan to fundamentally gut and reshape the VA's structure. Only 61 percent of veterans surveyed said they got an appointment for urgent primary care when they needed it, according to VA data.

Extending the Veterans Choice Program helps to ensure the roughly 1.5 million veterans who benefit from Choice will continue to have an option to access quality health care closer to home from the 350,000 participating community providers. At the same time, he wants the VA to work in partnership by handling all the scheduling and "customer service", something that congressional auditors say could be unwieldy and expensive.