President Donald Trump on Saturday signed the Veteran’s Affairs Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017. The legislation marks yet another major VA reform bill under the Trump Administration aimed at helping veterans.
“We’re working night and day to ensure our brave veterans are provided with world-class treatment,” President Trump said.
The Veteran’s Affairs Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017 provides further funds the Veterans Choice Fund, extending the VA Choice Program for an additional six months.
The VA Choice Program authorizes veterans who live farther than 40 miles from a VA facility, or those who cannot get an appointment with the VA in under 30 days, to access care outside the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system. Further, this legislation authorizes 28 major medical facility leases and puts in place reforms to strengthen the VA’s ability to train, recruit and retain its workforce.
In July, President Trump signed the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, the biggest reform bill in the history of the department. Since it became law, more than 500 employees have been fired and over 180 suspended for misconduct. He signed the Veterans Choice Act, which begins permitting qualified veterans to get the care of their choice.
President Trump also addressed the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which white supremacists clashed with leftwing groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter.
“We must remember this truth: no matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first,” he said. “Our citizens must restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another. We have to respect each other. Ideally, we have to love each other.”
Brief Recent History of VA Scandals
The signing of the bill by President Trump followed several scandals during the Obama Administration that included veterans dying while waiting to get appointments at VA hospitals, most notably in Phoenix, Arizona.
At a facility in Tomah, Wisconsin, patients called the chief of staff the “Candy Man” because he widely distributed narcotics for a $4,000 bonus, even after a patient named Jason Simcakoski died of an overdose. Incredibly, this was after an investigation uncovered that he was overprescribing.
The previous administration repeatedly claimed to have learned of the conditions at these VA facilities only after news reports exposed them, including allegations from a doctor at the Huntington VA Medical Center in Charleston, West Virginia.
Dr. Margaret Moxness, a psychiatrist, said in 2014 she was ordered to delay the treatment of veterans for months and that at least two of them had committed suicide.
In 2014, Democrats killed legislation similiar to the VA Accountability Act.