New Hampshire's two senators are pushing to protect a program that lets ailing vets choose a doctor outside the Veterans Affairs system, but the VA is doubling down on its assertion vets would be fine without it.
In a blistering letter to President Barack Obama, Sens. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, blasted a 2016 budget proposal to reallocate funds for the Veterans Choice Program, saying the plan "jeopardizes veterans' access to care and undermines the principle at the heart of the program — veterans' ability to choose where they receive care," Military Times reports.
The $10 billion Veterans Choice program was approved in August in the wake of a
delayed-care scandal that rocked the VA, and was required to remain in place for two years after implementation, Military Times notes.
In their Feb. 4 letter, the senators made note of that, writing that the reallocation of funds "is unacceptable and inconsistent with congressional intent," the Union Leader reports.
In a statement to Military Times, an unnamed VA official defended the administration's request to move funds, saying the department needs flexibility to ensure that veterans get the care they need in a timely manner.
"Currently, we have no ability to shift resources between Choice Programs and VA-provided care," the official said, Military Times reports.
"We have anecdotal indications from veterans and their representatives that they would prefer to get their care in VA facilities from the medical professionals they have."
To protect the program in their state as well as in Alaska and Hawaii — the only three states that lack a full-service VA medical center — the senators have introduced legislation to make Veterans Choice permanent for veterans in those states, Military Times states.
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