WASHINGTON, April 19 - President Donald Trump on Wednesday moved a step closer to fulfilling his campaign promise to reform the troubled Veterans Affairs department, but some veterans groups are concerned that the administration may be working toward privatizing their healthcare.
Trump signed a law extending the pilot "Veterans Choice" program, which allows some veterans to receive healthcare from local doctors and hospitals closer to their homes than the VA's 150 hospitals and nearly 1,000 outpatient clinics. The law eases procedures for reimbursing private providers and creates a system for sharing medical records with them.
"This new law is a good start, but there is still much work to do," Trump said at a signing ceremony attended by VA Secretary David Shulkin and Florida Governor Rick Scott. "We will fight each and every day to deliver the long-awaited reforms our veterans deserve."
Trump pledged to hold a news conference next week on "all of the tremendous things that are happening at the VA and what we've done in terms of progress and achievement."
Reforming the agency, rocked by a waiting-time scandal in 2014, was one of Trump's most-repeated campaign trail promises. He has frequently suggested having the government pay outside physicians to provide veteran healthcare.