WASHINGTON – Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01) today applauded House passage of S. 114, legislation authorizing $2 billion in funding for the Veterans Choice Program, which allows certain veterans to seek medical care outside of the VA system.
The bill also included provisions authorizing 28 VA medical facility leases, including two facilities in Virginia - one in Fredericksburg and one in Hampton Roads.
The passage of this bill comes just days after the House reauthorized the GI Bill by passing H.R. 3218, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act. This "GI Bill for the 21st Century" allows veterans to use the GI Bill throughout their lives instead of within 15 years of service and establishes a pilot program that allows veterans to attend non-traditional technology programs that will help them get jobs right after completion.
"These bills will improve quality of life, medical care, and educational opportunities for our veterans," Rep. Wittman said. "I am especially pleased to see we are authorizing leases for two critical VA medical facilities in Virginia, which will improve access to care and health care outcomes for our veterans in the Commonwealth."
Background on the Veterans Choice Program:
The Veterans Choice Program allows veterans who are enrolled in VA health care to receive care outside that system if they meet certain criteria. Currently a veteran is considered Choice eligible if:
* they have been told by their local VA medical facility that they can’t schedule their appointment within 30 days,
* their current residence is more than 40 miles from the closest VA medical facility with their full-time primary physician,
* they need to travel by air, boat or ferry to the VA medical facility closest to their home, or if
* they are faced with excessive burden due to traveling to the closest VA medical facility based on geographic challenges, environmental factors, or a medical condition.
Background on VA medical facility leases:
Under current law, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must receive specific legislative authorization to lease medical facilities with average annual rental payments in excess of $1 million. However, since 2014 Congress has failed to authorize any major VA medical facility leases.
Among the leases included in S. 114 is a 155,000 square foot outpatient facility in Hampton Roads and $45 million for an outpatient clinic in Fredericksburg.
Congressman Rob Wittman represents the 1st District of Virginia. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, where he is Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.