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New VA Secretary Wants To Get Rid Of 40-Mile, 30-Day Rule For Private Care
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin on Sunday proposed eliminating a controversial policy that limits veterans from receiving private-sector health care.
Speaking to hundreds of people at the Disabled American Veterans annual conference in Arlington, Va., Shulkin laid out his top 10 priorities for the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was his first public address since becoming VA secretary.
High on Shulkin’s list was redesigning the Veterans Choice Program into what he called “Choice 2.0.”
His plan would include removing the rule that allows veterans to go outside the VA for health care if they had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or live more than 40 miles driving distance from a VA facility. Some veterans and lawmakers have criticized the 40-mile, 30-day rule for limiting veterans’ health care choices, and Shulkin called the program “extremely complex and bureaucratic.”
President Donald Trump said during his campaign that he would ensure every veteran could choose between the VA or private-sector care. Shulkin said Sunday that he wanted a system with less “red tape.”
“We want to be thoughtful about how we propose what the new choice program will look like, and do that in conjunction with Congress, and to make sure we are fulfilling the president’s promise and commitment that he has made to the country’s veterans,” Shulkin told Stars and Stripes.
Choice set to expire
Before he can propose Choice 2.0, Congress first must eliminate the expiration date for the original Veterans Choice Program, Shulkin said.
“We want to make sure we continue the current program so veterans don’t experience any gap in care,” he said.
The program was created as a temporary measure in 2014 after it was discovered veterans were suffering long waits for health care at some VA facilities. It was funded with $10 billion and given an expiration date of Aug. 7, 2017.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., introduced legislation last month to do away with the expiration date. The lawmakers estimated by August, the choice program would still have approximately $1 billion in funding.
Congress has yet to taken action on either the House or Senate bill.
“If Congress doesn’t act, we will see a significant amount of resources be removed,” Shulkin said.
Shulkin has previously attempted to ease concerns that the VA would move completely to the private sector. He did so again Sunday, saying the private sector does not have the "military cultural competency" that the VA provides.
Shulkin on Sunday also listed employee accountability as a top priority. He said he would work to push legislation in Congress that would allow the VA to “make sure bad employees are leaving the system.”
Some lawmakers have pushed to make it easier to fire VA employees as a way to root out a perceived culture of corruption in the department.
The VA will also announce some “bold proposals” regarding suicide prevention in coming weeks, Shulkin said.
Trump commented during his campaign on the number of veteran suicides – calling it a “national tragedy” – and said he would improve mental health care at the VA. According to the latest VA statistics, an average of 20 veterans died from suicide each day in 2014.
Other priorities Shulkin listed Sunday included improving VA infrastructure, better coordinating with the Department of Defense, enhancing information technology and making quicker decisions on claims for disability and pension compensation.
“Now I’m focused on the future,” Shulkin told Stars and Stripes. “I’m focused on how we can make significant advancements from where we were to make this a better system.”
Disabled American Veterans and other veterans organizations will have opportunities soon to highlight their own priorities for VA reform to the Senate and House veterans' affairs committees.
Disabled American Veterans will present their priorities to lawmakers on Tuesday, followed by The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars on Wednesday.
©2017 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The Marine lieutenant colonel who was removed from command of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May is accused of lying to investigators looking into allegations of misconduct, according to a copy of his charge sheet provided to Task & Purpose on Monday.
President Donald Trump just can't stop telling stories about former Defense Secretary James Mattis. This time, the president claims Mattis said U.S. troops were so perilously low on ammunition that it would be better to hold off launching a military operation.
"You know, when I came here, three years ago almost, Gen. Mattis told me, 'Sir, we're very low on ammunition,'" Trump recalled on Monday at the White House. "I said, 'That's a horrible thing to say.' I'm not blaming him. I'm not blaming anybody. But that's what he told me because we were in a position with a certain country, I won't say which one; we may have had conflict. And he said to me: 'Sir, if you could, delay it because we're very low on ammunition.'
"And I said: You know what, general, I never want to hear that again from another general," Trump continued. "No president should ever, ever hear that statement: 'We're low on ammunition.'"
This 400-pound feral hog is one of more than 1,200 that have invaded a Texas Air Force base since 2016
At least one Air Force base is waging a slow battle against feral hogs — and way, way more than 30-50 of them.
A Texas trapper announced on Monday that his company had removed roughly 1,200 feral hogs from Joint Base San Antonio property at the behest of the service since 2016.
In a move that could see President Donald Trump set foot on North Korean soil again, Kim Jong Un has invited the U.S. leader to Pyongyang, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday, as the North's Foreign Ministry said it expected stalled nuclear talks to resume "in a few weeks."
A letter from Kim, the second Trump received from the North Korean leader last month, was passed to the U.S. president during the third week of August and came ahead of the North's launch of short-range projectiles on Sept. 10, the South's Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported, citing multiple people familiar with the matter.
In the letter, Kim expressed his willingness to meet the U.S. leader for another summit — a stance that echoed Trump's own remarks just days earlier.
Constant deployments broke the Air Force's B-1 fleet. Now the service is facing a major bomber shortfall
On April 14, 2018, two B-1B Lancer bombers fired off payloads of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles against weapons storage plants in western Syria, part of a shock-and-awe response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his citizens that also included strikes from Navy destroyers and submarines.
In all, the two bombers fired 19 JASSMs, successfully eliminating their targets. But the moment would ultimately be one of the last — and certainly most publicized — strategic strikes for the aircraft before operations began to wind down for the entire fleet.
A few months after the Syria strike, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray called the bombers back home. Ray had crunched the data, and determined the non-nuclear B-1 was pushing its capabilities limit. Between 2006 and 2016, the B-1 was the sole bomber tasked continuously in the Middle East. The assignment was spread over three Lancer squadrons that spent one year at home, then six month deployed — back and forth for a decade.
The constant deployments broke the B-1 fleet. It's no longer a question of if, but when the Air Force and Congress will send the aircraft to the Boneyard. But Air Force officials are still arguing the B-1 has value to offer, especially since it's all the service really has until newer bombers hit the flight line in the mid-2020s.