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Veterans face health care crisis Jan. 2 as key program is set to lose funding

A person is frustrated. (Pixabay/Released)
December 20, 2017

Funding for the Veterans Choice Program could run out as early as Jan. 2, 2018, and as late as Jan. 16, 2018, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) notice.

“Based on current data, VA believes it will have exhausted the amount that was deposited in the Veterans Choice Fund no earlier than January 2, 2018; however, due to the unique nature of health care and the variability in health care costs, the amounts in the Fund could last as long as January 16, 2018,” the notice read.

VA Secretary David Shulkin recently urged Congress to approve funding for the program by the end of the year because funds would be depleted in a month. This would lead to veterans having limited access to health care, because the VA Choice Program allows veterans to seek health care in the private sector.

“VA’s other community care programs will not have the capacity to handle all of the patients who will transition from [the Choice program], and the wait time for appointments at VA facilities will rise if large numbers of veterans return to VA to seek care,” Shulkin wrote in an email to Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia and chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Stars and Stripes reported. “Taking these actions would have a number of negative consequences, including decreased access to care, damaged community partnerships and interrupted care continuity for veterans.”

In August, lawmakers approved an additional $2.1 billion in funding for the VA Choice Program after Shulkin urged them to provide emergency funding.

For the last several months, Shulkin has been trying to push legislation that would provide more stable funding for the VA Choice Program, but several bills have yet to be approved.

Congressional lawmakers are trying to approve funding for the Choice Program in the year-end budget deal. However, lawmakers are trying to approve a temporary spending bill to prevent a government shutdown this week.