Chairman Roe: The Secretary's Message is Clear
Today, Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) spoke on the House floor in support of a continuing resolution that includes $2.1 billion for the Choice Program. On December 12, 2017, Secretary Shulkin sent a letter to Congress requesting funding for the Choice Program by year’s end.
Below are his remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of a provision within this legislation that would authorize and appropriate $2.1 billion for the Veterans Choice Program.
Choice was created by Congress in 2014 following a nationwide Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) access and accountability crisis.
Make no mistake about it, Choice has certainly not been without its faults in the last three years.
However, the program has also resulted in millions of veterans receiving care that they otherwise would have had to wait longer and travel farther for or maybe not received at all.
Absent passage of this provision, the Choice program is expected to run out of money in early 2018, which could jeopardize the care that veterans across the country are receiving in their communities.
That is an unacceptable outcome.
The Committee has been working diligently to create a permanent care in the community program to replace and improve upon Choice and, in fact, I was proud to introduce H.R. 4242, the VA Care in the Community Act last month. That legislation was favorably reported out of my committee just this week, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on community care reform.
In the meantime, we cannot allow the care our veterans receive in the community through the Choice program to be jeopardized by a lack of funding.
In fact, I’d like to submit a letter for the record Secretary Shulkin sent me earlier this month. In this letter he says explicitly that, without additional funding before the end of the year, there will be a dramatic impact on the ability of the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide care to veterans.
The secretary’s message is clear, Mr. Speaker. I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting an additional $2.1 billion for the Choice program.
With that, I reserve the balance of my time.