Trump named former VA Under Secretary for Health David Shulkin to the top post at the VA this year, who has vowed to reform the VA, though he is an Obama era holdover. Shulkin, a doctor, previously served as the head of multiple medical systems in the university sector.
Trump and Shulkin have both spoken about the Veterans Choice Program, which lets veterans who are eligible for VA benefits to receive care outside the VA system. The president signed a funding bill in August to keep the program solvent, but that was required because the system was already near bankrupt and facing layoffs and interrupted medical care for thousands of veterans.
At Concerned Veterans for America, the ongoing problems with the Veterans Choice program provide legislative hope, as does President Trump's support for expanded choice which he highlighted on the campaign trail.
"There is a lot of legislative momentum to pass expanded choice legislation because the only choice program in place, the Veterans Choice program, is set to run out of funding before the end of the year, putting pressure on lawmakers to find a solution. ... It was Congress that kicked the can down the road by not enacting permanent choice reforms sooner," Jim Fellinger, spokesman for Concerned Veterans said in a follow-up email to CNBC.
The veterans group said that in the House of Representatives, VA committee chairman and Tennessee Republican Phil Roe has been a huge advocate of expanded choice. In the Senate, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been calling for expanded choice and joined Concerned Veterans for America for a series of town halls this past summer focused on expanding health care choice for veterans beyond the VA.
Fischer said the VA, the nation's largest integrative health care system, simply would not be able to handle the pressure of all the veterans that would turn to it if the ACA were to be repealed.
"That would put a huge rush on the VA system, a system that, while yes, it is a world-class health care provider, has at this moment 50,000 vacancies. … Of course you would see the number of uninsured veterans in this country go up drastically." Fischer said. "If the ACA were to be repealed and replaced, it would be devastating to veterans and to military families."
— By Jessica Mathews, special to CNBC.com