Trump to hold news conference next week on USA veterans issues

CVS drugstore and pharmacy in Philadelphia. Three years after a wait-time scandal the Veterans Affairs Department is hoping a private-sector partnership with the CVS Pharmacy chain will reduce some of

VA tests partnership with CVS to reduce veterans' wait times

Extension of the "Veterans Choice" program could worry Democrats and other critics that Trump and Shulkin are inching toward sending some of the US$65.6 billion the department spends annually on medical care to corporations and private businesses.

The program allows veterans to seek care in the private sector if they have to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or live more than 40 miles driving distance from a VA facility.

The VA announcement follows a NPR investigation earlier this month that found 32 of 140 VA medical centers had cut the number of families from their caregiver programs since 2014, some of them by more than half.

Flanked by veterans at an Oval Office ceremony, the president signed the bill to extend the Choice program, which was to expire on August 7, and allow the expenditure of the remaining $950 million in the program.

Additionally, the White House said in a statement Wednesday that the new law also modifies "reimbursement and cost-recovery procedures for care provided under the Program; and to authorize the sharing of certain veterans' medical records with medical service providers outside the Department of Veterans Affairs".

Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to give veterans freedom to seek care "at a private service provider of their own choice". The bill will be a stopgap measure, asserts Trump's own Secretary of Veterans Affairs. No veteran should worry they won't be able to get the care they need.

Mr. Shulkin has called on Congress to approve a more permanent solution to veterans' health care.

The Family Caregiver Program, mandated by Congress in 2010, was created to help support family members caring for seriously-wounded veterans in the post-9/11 era.

"By working together, we're going to continue this progress", he said.

"This announcement is good news for our Caregivers and I applaud Secretary Shulkin for making this program a priority". He said those appointments would have otherwise "lagged" in the VA scheduling system.

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