Trump signs bill providing funds for veterans medical care

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed a bill Saturday that Nevada lawmakers hailed for providing funds for veterans who receive medical care from doctors at facilities outside the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

The planned celebratory signing ceremony, however, was overshadowed by the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that prompted the president to urge “swift restoration of law and order” following two days of demonstrations by white nationalists and counterprotesters.

“We have to heal the wounds of this country,” Trump said at the ceremony held at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Following remarks about the protests, Trump and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin thanked “our incredible veterans” for past sacrifices.

Trump was flanked by leaders of veterans groups as he signed the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and supported by the entire Nevada congressional delegation.

The president recognized Heller and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, for pushing the legislation through the Senate, where it passed with bipartisan support.

The House passed the bill 414-0.

Contained in the legislation is $2.1 billion in emergency funds to continue to cover costs of veterans to receive medical care from doctors outside the VA system in fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1. Funding for the Choice program was about to run out.

“Without funding for the program, rural veterans, like those in Ely, Elko, Winnemucca and Tonopah would have to drive hundreds of miles to receive health care,” Heller said.

More than 225,000 veterans live in Nevada, of which 21,000 are women and nearly half, or 120,000 veterans, are younger than 65, the Department of Veterans Affairs reports.

The legislation signed into law will provide for new medical facility leases for outpatient clinics.

Most importantly, Trump said, it gives veterans the opportunity to see “doctors of their choice.”

Heller said the bill also gives the VA the ability to recruit, train and improve their workforce.

Contact Gary Martin at 202-662-7390 or Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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