Allen B. West

Veterans betrayed again: Obama’s $4 trillion budget slices Choice Card program

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One of the fundamental premises of the American free market is choice. However, for some reason there are those who feel choice is not part of the success of this Republic. It’s reserved for those who believe they know what’s best for everyone else.

Remember the debacle of the Veterans Administration system, the wait lists, and veterans dying while being put on these infamous wait lists? Last year, Congress passed a law signed by President Obama called the Veterans Choice Law. It allows veterans who live outside of a reasonable distance to go to a health care facility of their choosing closer to where they live – or even receive care at a facility providing responsive services – the least our nation could do, right?

Well, there’s a little problem per the recently released Obama budget. The Choice Law that Obama signed and so vociferously lauded is getting a budget cut.

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As reported by the Washington Times, “VA Secretary Robert McDonald defended President Obama’s budget request to cut some funding from the new Choice Card program for veterans, saying he wants the embattled department to be able to make decisions about whether the program is working and when to limit it.”

“The president’s proposal to cut some of the $10 billion in program funding irked key members of Congress, who created the Choice Card just six months ago to federally fund private clinic visits for veterans stuck on long waiting lists at the VA. And a poll released Tuesday by Concerned Veterans for American found that veterans overwhelmingly want the choice to receive care outside of the VA.”

“While not asked specifically about the Choice act, almost nine in 10 veterans polled said it was important to increase options for veterans health care and approve of efforts to reform the VA. “It was frankly my idea, so it wasn’t meant to be controversial,” Mr. McDonald said during a joint visit of top lawmakers from the House and Senate veterans’ affairs committees to VA headquarters.

“In a world where you have veterans making the decision, I just don’t want to be short, and being short and being inflexible could create people not getting the care they need.” Rep. Jeff Miller, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee, warned that the program will only last as long as there is money left in that $10 billion pot and that dipping into that could sunset the program earlier than lawmakers intended. He previously called the idea of reallocating the money a “non-starter.”

It appears they’re dancing the usual beltway two-step. The new VA Director, a former Army officer, seems to have bought into the DC bureaucracy. His response that he wants the VA to determine whether the program is working and when to limit shows he doesn’t care for the veterans, but the system. If Secretary McDonald wanted to know if the program is working he should ask veterans, not bureaucrats.

There can be no doubt that the VA wants no choice or competition with the more effective and efficient free market when it comes to healthcare – sadly even when it comes to our veterans.

This further goes to show McDonald has bought into the fantasy that government can run a healthcare system and he won’t challenge the standing progressive socialist view of a single-payer system — that’s what the Choice Law threatens.

As The Washington Times writes, “VA officials said Monday that even though the program is in its early stages, veterans have been using it at a much lower rate than anticipated, though they couldn’t provide numbers. Helen Tierney, chief financial officer at the VA, said most veterans preferred being treated by a VA provider instead of a private physician.”

I hate to tell Ms. Tierney the facts, but the VA system is doing everything possible to dissuade veterans from utilizing the Choice program – including long wait times on phones and someone who assesses their “qualification.” Once again, nothing is at it seems with the Obama administration, as they institute obstacles and impediments to discourage veteran usage.

The Times says “Mr. McDonald said he supported giving vets the chance to see outside providers, calling it a “shock absorber we need” — though he also seemed optimistic he can convince Congress to give him flexibility to curtail the program.”

“It had nothing to do with us trying to gut the Choice Card or anything like that, it was about flexibility,” Mr. McDonald said. “I’m pleased to be standing here with my partners in Congress because I believe if I can demonstrate that need to them, they’ll give me that flexibility.”

I would beg to differ, sir. Why is it we’re not hearing about House and Senate Democrats going to the floors of their respective legislative bodies complaining about “cuts to investments?” I would propose that if there is an investment the government should be making, it is to provide quality healthcare options to those who were willing to make the “last full measure of devotion” to this nation.

It amazes me how mum the left is on this budget cut from the Obama administration. This is a program not even six months old and the VA needs to assess if it’s working?

I have a question. We’ve been throwing taxpayer dollars at the “war on poverty” for 50 years and should we stop and make decisions as to whether all these government programs are working?

Heck, I’d say, looking at the last six years would tell you that with the increase of food stamps and poverty rolls, the answer to that question would be pretty clear. However, try to cut back on welfare nanny-state growth, food stamps/EBT card issuance, and you’ll have the liberal progressive socialists screaming from the rafters of the U.S. Capitol.

This cut of $10 billion once again provides a lucid vision into the heart and soul of the left. Budget cuts to a healthcare choice program for our veterans are acceptable to them. Budget cuts to the dependency society are not. I guess it lets you know what the left considers a good “investment” for your taxpayer dollars.

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