Trump-O-Meter

Increase veterans' health care

"We are going to make sure every veteran in America has the choice to seek care at the Veterans Administration or to seek private medical care paid for by our government."


Increase veterans' health care

Part of Donald Trump’s 10-point plan to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs is to allow veterans to receive private medical care paid for by the government.

“We are going to make sure every veteran in America has the choice to seek care at the Veteran's Administration or to seek private medical care paid for by our government,” Trump said.

While veterans already have the option to seek out health care outside the Veterans Administration, the real question surrounding Trump’s promise is whether the approval procedures can be simplified or expedited.

WHY HE’S PROMISING IT

In 2014, media reports brought to light many issues facing the VA, including long wait times for veterans using VA hospitals.

That problem still hasn’t gone away. As of January 2017, the Veterans Choice Program — a $10 billion initiative set up to curb the VA’s problems — allows veterans to receive health care outside what the VA offers.

While the list of criteria to qualify for health care under the Veteran’s Choice Program is broad, wait times still have gotten worse.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN

Trump wants Congress to introduce the Restoring National Security Act within his first 100 days of office. Part of Trump’s goal for this act would be to provide veterans with the choice of going to a doctor of their choosing.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST

A 2016 Commission on Care report found that treating veterans through a community-based network will cost a significant amount of money. Although not synonymous with private health care, the community-based networks would provide care outside of veterans hospitals.

The Commission on Care — a government enacted, VA watchdog group — found that if most of the veterans enrolled in VA health care switched to community-based networks, that would increase costs by about $450 billion by 2034. That is almost four times than what the government spends currently.

WHAT'S STANDING IN HIS WAY

Some grassroot veteran organizations are wary of any attempts to privatize the VA.

Michael Blecker, the executive director of Swords to Plowshares, a nonprofit veterans organization based in California, said he champions increased access to health care, but fears that allowing veterans to seek private insurance will diminish the VA.

In addition, experts told PolitiFact that encouraging veterans to seek health care anywhere could be dangerous because not all doctors have the knowledge to treat military and combat injuries and illnesses.

“Ideally, veterans should be served within the VA for conditions related to service, since the VA has much greater expertise in many of these conditions,” said Linda Bilmes, a senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard University.

She said this is especially true for more complicated problems, such as combat trauma, traumatic brain injury, exposure to carcinogens such as Agent Orange — an herbicide — or injuries to multiple body parts.

A POSSIBLE TIMELINE

Trump hasn’t given too many details on how he would do this, but one option — introducing the  Restoring National Security Act — is part of Trump’s 100-day action plan.