Roe Statement on Choice Funding
Washington, July 24, 2017 | For more information, contact: Tiffany Haverly, (202) 225-3527
Today, Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement after House Democrats brought down a suspension to provide funding for the Choice program for six months:
“Secretary Shulkin has said before the committee that Choice running out of money would be a disaster for America’s veterans, and that without this funding wait times would go up. Already this week, the House is slated to consider a bill to increase appropriations for the department by 5 percent, leaving Choice as the only VA program at risk of being depleted of critical funding. While there are certainly priorities that remain unaddressed by this legislation – like the funding of important VA leases - I am committed to continuing to work on VA reform in the coming months. However, voting to provide $2 billion today would have ensured the Choice program remained funded for the next 6 months - solving our most pressing issue and preventing yet another access crisis like the one that led to the creation of Choice three years ago. Last week, during a bipartisan member meeting, members of both parties came together and agreed to fund the Choice program for six months while Congress worked on other reforms. This was a bipartisan agreement, and I’m disappointed the concerns raised on the House floor today were not mentioned during what I thought was an open and honest conversation. I will continue to fight tirelessly to ensure the Choice Fund does not run out of money so veterans can continue to access care. I appreciate and understand that some Veterans Service Organizations raised concerns with this legislation to fund Choice, and my door is always open to hear their concerns and ideas to make VA work for veterans.”
Note: At a June 2017 hearing on the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) budget, Poonam Alaigh, M.D., Acting Under Secretary for Health at VHA, responded to Chairman Roe’s question about what would happen if Congress fails to replenish the Choice fund. Dr. Alaigh noted that, if Congress fails to act, veterans will not be able to access care outside VA through Choice; wait times will go up to the level they were before the Phoenix waitlist scandal; and Third Party Administrators (TPAs) around the country will be laid off. Secretary Shulkin told the committee during a March 2017 hearing on community care that allowing the Choice Program to sunset would be a “disaster for American veterans” and warned we would see the “same situation we saw in April 2014 in Phoenix.”
S. 114 provides $2 billion to continue the Choice Program for six months while Congress works on other reforms to the Choice Program.