Tuesday, February 17, 2015

'Choice card' for vets distant from VA facility or with delayed appointments has problems

Last summer, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it would offer a "choice card" allowing "veterans who have been waiting more than 30 days for appointments or who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility the chance to see a private doctor," Emily Wax-Thibodeaux writes for The Washington Post. "Some veterans say that when they attempted to use their card, the VA told them they had to live more than 40 'miles in a straight line, or as the crow flies,' from their VA rather than Google maps miles, which makes the card harder to use."

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., has filed a bill to use actual driving distances and apply "directly to the type of care requested by the veteran – which means having a Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in the area would no longer prevent a veteran from choosing care at a local hospital if the local CBOC can’t provide the necessary service," the Post reports.

Also, the newspaper reports, "Several VA doctors e-mailed The Washington Post saying they themselves don’t understand how to use the program." One wrote, “As far as I can tell, the choice card has created more confusion and aggravation than improving access to clinical care, though it did gain political points.”

"Another problem that veterans pointed to is that all veterans, whether eligible or not, get the card," the Post reports. "Some are showing up in private emergency rooms and try to use the card only to find out it’s not valid." One reader told the Post that VA sent a card to her stepfather, who died in 2009, "a symbol of an agency still seemingly in disarray."

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