Veterans call for more improvements as Congress extends the "Choice Act"

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Congress is on a mission to perfect health care for veterans. Lawmakers recently passed an extension of the “Choice Program,” which was implemented in 2014. While some say it has improved V.A. health care, not everyone agrees.

Carlos Fuentes says the Choice Act was great in theory, but has not been entirely successful in its implementation.

“The least that we can do is provide them the services that they need,” said Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV).

The legislation is intended to improve health care options for veterans. It allows them to visit local community hospitals, utilize telemedicine, the hiring of more doctors and more. Kihuen voted for the extension and hopes care will continue to improve.

“We should be looking to expand services for our military members and also our veterans when they leave the military,” said Kihuen.

Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS) says the Choice Act is working, though the bar for veteran health care was set low.

“This will be very helpful for rural hospitals as well,” said Marshall. “A lot of these things could be done in people’s local communities. So it saves them time driving back and forth, missing days of work.”

Many veterans welcomed the Choice Act because, in theory, it made their lives easier and health care more accessible. Carlos Fuentes, a veteran of the Afghanistan War, says implementation hasn’t been entirely successful.

“It hasn’t worked as ideally as it was intended to,” said Fuentes.

Fuentes now works for the nonprofit Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. He says the idea of the Program is great. The implementation, however, has not been great. He says there are now more bureaucratic processes in place under the Choice Program, it isn’t user-friendly, and bad doctors are still not being held accountable.

“Right now what we’re doing is working with V.A. to iron out all those kinks, come up with reasonable solutions, veteran-centric solutions, to a lot of these problems,” said Fuentes.

The Choice Act extension is currently waiting for President Donald Trump’s signature.