Even after the VA changed the program to pay for visits to private health-care providers if patients live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or have been on a waiting list for more than 30 days, veterans faced long waits. Lawmakers have approved multi-billion-dollar funding extensions to the program twice in the last nine months while trying to figure out a better solution. "Department officials said they need another $1.3 billion to extend the program until this fall, and up to $3.6 billion more to keep it running through fiscal 2019," Shane reports.
Even if an improved program is approved soon, VA administrators say they'll need a year to transition veterans to the new program. The transition time required is one reason for Wilkie's urgency; his letter said that "We cannot wait any longer."