Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin 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 pro- gram will look like, and do that in con- junction 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 said.
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.