Politicians, VA Already Plot To Gut Veterans Choice Program

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Veterans Choice Program

Benjamin KrauseDept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims underuse of Veterans Choice Program supports Monday’s proposal by President Obama and VA to divert funds from the program into other areas of the agency.

Given the program is just a couples months old, is this push to divert funds too early or is it a move to ensure its later failure by moving to gut it now? I suspect this is a move to gut the program early to avoid its later success with the goal of minimizing future calls to downsize VA due to veterans preferring non-VA health care.

Most veterans of the 8.6 million veterans received their Veterans Choice Cards in the past couple months. Many are confused about the programs entitlement. Still others are restricted from using the program due to red tape. A veteran must live 40 miles from a VA facility to qualify for non-VA care. Or, if you cannot get in within 30 days, VA can allow you to see a non-VA doctor. Most veterans getting cards will not qualify for its use.

Sounds like a whole lot of red tape to get health care, right? With a program so new, how can VA conclude veterans are not interested in non-VA health care? I think it’s safe to say it is premature to make any conclusions about the program, much less conclusions to start gutting the program of the $10 billion Congress set aside for it.

My take on it obviously assumes VA is interested in putting veterans first. If those involved have other goals, then perhaps gutting this program makes sense.

According to the Washington Examiner, VA officials claim the Veterans Choice program is underused and that most veterans would rather get their health care from VA, anyway. “What we are getting… is that they are looking for more care within the VA system,” said Helen Tierney, assistant VA secretary for management and VA chief financial officer.

Really? Veterans actually want more health care from inside VA? Tell that to the countless veterans harmed by the wait list fraud at the Phoenix VA.

Most the veterans I talk with would much rather get the same health care treatment as that received by members of Congress. And, you will never get that kind of care at any VA medical center.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

In a media conference call Monday afternoon, Helen Tierney, the department’s chief financial officer said some 8.6 million choice cards have been sent to veterans, though usage rates have been far lower than expected. Ms. Tierney suggested that underused funds from the choice card program might be those targeted for reallocation, but did not directly lay out any plans.

Tierney went on to state VA was seeking to move funds “towards programs that veterans want and need.” She continued, “We are not going to be asking for more money, just to move resources.”

Sounds like Tierney, her friends at VA, and some choice politicians want to take from Peter to pay Paul. And, they want to do this while ignoring the mandate from the American public to allow veterans a real choice in who provides their health care in certain circumstances.

The Examiner indicates the President’s fiscal 2016 blueprint calls for some of the $10 billion allocated for Veterans Choice to be diverted “to support essential investments in VA system priorities in fiscally responsible, budget-neutral manner.”

How is that for saying a lot while not saying much at all?

The problem here is red tape.

The program has a distance restriction of 40 miles where you cannot use the benefit if you live inside a 40-mile radius of a VA facility if that facility can provide care within 30 days. Well hell, the restriction eliminates most of the veterans who received the Veterans Choice card. Now, VA tells us most veterans do not want non-VA care based on the lack of use of the program.

I don’t know about you, but I just received my card in the middle of December, but I cannot use the program readily because I love too close to the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

See how this bait and switch works?

Where does VA get their information? Did they do a survey? Is this the same survey that claims veterans are very happy with VA health care? Did they make it up?

To restate, VA cites that it sent choice cards to 8.6 million veterans but the agency now claims most of them want health care from VA. It makes this conclusion based on lack of program use. Based on this conclusion, VA wants to divert funds from the Veterans Choice Program. Meanwhile, most veterans who received the card cannot use the program due to the clever geographical restriction that keeps us all hogtied to VA health care.

My bet is most veterans cannot use the program to begin with or are unsure of how it works. But that certainly does not support the conclusion that veterans do not want the non-VA health care due to that lack of use. While I do not doubt some veterans like how they are treated at VA, the problem here is VA touting the lack of use as evidence of how veterans do not need the program because they love their VA health care.

See how the VA spin machine uses the high number of veterans who received care while being unable to use them as being justification to gut the Veterans Choice Program before it gets off the ground?

I for one would not opt for VA health care if I could receive non-VA care. Why didn’t their polling people contact me and people like me?

Sources:

https://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/02/03/barack-obama-plan-to-shift-veterans-choice-act-funds-faces-shelling-on-hill/

https://m.washingtonexaminer.com/article/2559681

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93 Comments

  1. Ben, my husband and I both got choice cards since we are both service connected vets. My husband tried to use his choice card for an urgent eye problem. We live 2 hours one way from the nearest VA hospital with an ophthalmologist. Yet when we called the “Choice” number we were told that the VA counted the nearby outpatient VA clinic which does not have any eye care as putting him living too close to be eligible for the choice card. The 2 hour away VA eye clinic did not have any opening for more than 30 days. So then the “Choice” people told us that because it would take 2 weeks to get my husband set up in the Choice system that would mean his VA eye appt would then be in the 30 day window. So he would not be eligible to use the Choice card at that time. Way too much RED tape! It seems like those working with vets to qualify them to use Choice card are being told to find any excuse to deny a vet from using the card. He finally ending up going to a civilian eye MD on his own dime.

    • I have a CBC 3 miles away. Unless the service is performed at this clinic, it does not count. Once again, Veterans Choice has screwed a vet. They gave you the wrong information. The closest opthomologist is 90 miles from me, yet I was told by Vets Choice that I was eligible to get my eye care locally.

      It all depends on who you talk to. You’ll get a different opinion every time.

      Look, I’m no government cheerleader, but I’ve gotten better care with the VA, than with any private physician. I’m no longer held prisoner by health insurance companies, where an RN can overrule the physician, all in the name of profits. I’ve undergone 2 surgeries in 6 months, with another scheduled in January. The decisions were made by the specialty physicians and me, not some glorified paper pusher with a pseudotitle at an insurance company.

      Does the VA have problems, yes. But, the problems I’ve seen are due to a lack of facilities and resources. Congress wants continue fighting wars without a thought about taking care of those who serve. I blame Congress.

      • Try finding a Doctor in your area who will deal with Veteran’s Choice. This program is administered my a for-profit corporation. In order to increase profits, they are stiffing Medical Providers. Consequently, Medical Providers will no longer deal with Veteran’s Choice. I was given six dermatologist in my area by the Veteran’s Choice office. These were all Doctors who had signed up for this program when it began. All six told me that they would no longer deal with Veteran’s Choice. Invoices were paid extremely late, or were paid only a fraction of the billed amount.

      • Absolutely! It actually took my Senator’s involvement to get a damn appointment scheduled. To let everyone know, the law says that an appointment must be scheduled with in 5 business days from the time that you call Choice. The law DOES NOT say that they’ll take 5 days to make an appointment. It took over a month to get Health Net Federal Services to make an appointment and only after Senator Manchin got involved. I was even told by those idiots that I’d called the wrong people. Mind you, every vet calls a central number and inputs a zipcode. When I called about my husband, who’s also a vet, I was told the same thing. I asked this obvious monument to ineptitude, how he could possibly be under a different company, when he lives in the same house with me, and the operator asked if he lived in a different zipcode. I told her, not unless they rezoned the dining room, or moved the border of Ohio, to the center of our house. I urge all vets to contact your us senators and congressman if you have a problem with Choice. It’s coming up for a vote for refunding.

  2. Wow, I’m sorry but that’s a bunch of bull. There’s definitely some political games being played here at the expense of veterans. I don’t know any veteran that would prefer to drive to a VA facility rather than get higher quality care down the street. I tried to setup an appointment with a dermatology and the facility was too far and the window was greater than 30 days. I had to wait about 30 days just to get an appointment. Eventually, I was able to get an appointment (next week, fingers crossed). They are definitely making it less convenient for veterans than going to a VA facility.

  3. Yeah, They sent me a card too. My VSO got on the phone and called the VA patient rep.and was told something about monies not being approved yet for the Veterans Choice Program. Ben is right and I’ll go a step further by adding that the VA by diverting these forms will also use that diversion to formulate their own propaganda to appease the politicians and the American public in the event of more veterans dying while on waiting lists. I can hear them now! ” See, these veterans aren’t being harmed in any way, why they’re not even using those cards that we sent them.” It’s just one more political means by them to help them cover their behinds at the expense of veterans!

  4. The choice card was something that the govt. and the VA came up with so that the civilian population would think that the VA cares so much that they were willing to do the “right” thing and allow vets the option of getting care outside of the VA. What the civilian population did not know was the red tape that came along with it and as far as I know, no one (news media) has really tackled this. It was all a show and not really meant to help us vets. It was all to make the VA look good and nothing more.
    To use this card you have to get set-up taking time (as noted by a comment in this blog) then you have to go through basically a “fee services” process that can take anywhere from 30 – 90 days. How is this really helping us Vets? It is not, plain and simple. How is it helping the VA? By making those who do not have to deal with the VA think that the VA cares and want to help the vets by allowing the vet to go outside of the VA for care. It was all a bunch of BS. Nothing more, nothing less. The “choice” card really had no “choice” and should have never been offered as it was not intended to help us vets. It was to keep us vets in control by the VA. They knew what they were doing, messing us over.

    • Your 100% correct . I even had problems telling my post VVA 131 the problems with the Choice Program There is much bad information out there Our vice commander of VAA post , over my objection, told us that one when denied a 30 day appointment pulls out his choice card and tells the scheduling clerk they are now going to a private doctor and you take the choice card to a private doctor I tried to tell him this is totally bad information at our meeting. I told him once once you tell the scheduling clerk you want choice ( due to an appointment over 30 days) the VA where you are at must then approve such through its chain of command and then it goes to choice program who must approve it and payment I was told I was wrong That is the bad information out there .

      I also tried to tell them that the Choice Program has absolutely no tim regulation nor is it mandated in legislation as to when you tll the scheduling clerk you want a choice private doctor and to when it goes through that VA’s chain of command for approval and then on to the choice program What Choice and the VA is not telling popel is that such approval as you claim cabn take another 30 to 120 days for final approval to see a private physician . THIS IS IN TOTAL DISREGARD TO THE LEGISLATIVE INTENT OF THE CHOICE PROGRAM AND IS SOMETHING BEN SHOUL ADRESS. I HAVE TRIED TO TELL THIS TO MY CONGRESSMAN (Congressman Joe Pitts-R- Berks County- Pa) A FORMER VIETNAM VETERAN WHO EMPLOYEES YOUNG NON VETERANS ( POLITICAL PATRONAGE) IN VETERANS MATTERS TO NO AVAIL !!

      In fact what the Choice Program and my congressman’s office told me which was a lie when they called Choice and the VA choice program never corrected it was:

      “You may not get a 30 day appointment and may have to wait as eligibility is also based on what the clinical appropriateness of your appointment” As Congressman Joe Pitts office Berks County told me was that the Choice Program told them was i that since I was treated for eye degenerative disease or a colonostomy or for an enlarged prostate (urology) that since these wet not of such clinical need versus someone with a heart condition or cancer, etc then I and others would have to wait for a regular appointment past 30 days i.e. 1 month to 12 months !!

      Now when I confronted my congressmen that the VA gave bad information my congressman Joe Pitts-R – Berks County Pa did nothing to correct such false information provided to him and to me by Choice The VA was called to call my congressman and they have done nothing to discpline nor correct such bad information from Choice and my congressman’s office

      This is the crap that goes on. My next step is to report the VA people to the IG office of the VA since I have heard nothing at all from Congressman Joe Pitts office in Pennsylvania Our congressman and senators believe anything the VA tells them !!! Yet like Pitts who is Vietnam veteran he believes whatever the Va tells him and then that totally false information is passed onto other veterans who are Congressman Pitts -R-Pa people her in Berks county.

      It was in fact Congressman Pitts a Vietnam Veteran who left out all pre911 veterans and families from the VA Family Caregivers Legislation of 2014 in which caregivers can get up to $2500 per month for caring for serious disabled veterans at home plus get free civilian health care Thi is not available to pre 911 veterans yet Congresman Joe Pitts is avitenam veteran The bill discriminates based on age against all post 911 veteran who have been left behind by legislators such as Congressman Pitts and others !!

      Lee Horowitz, M.Ed, CAGS
      US Navy – Disabled Vietnam Era Veteran
      [email protected]
      Veterans advocate and civil rights advocate

  5. Good article Ben, can’t you get a real vote started somehow?

    Someone must have a list of veterans beside the VA.

  6. I highly suspect that $10 BILLION is going to MAGICALLY be diverted to GO ogle, whom I am assuming will win the contract to try to do the electronic medical records merging of DoD and VA mentioned in yesterday’s excellent article by Ben here on this site. It’s definitely a Bait and Switch.
    Received my “NO CHOICE CARD” towards end of December and just by reading the language of how exactly one can and cannot qualify, it was immediately apparent to me that the VA spent a HUGE amount of $$$$$$ on this “SPIN”, money that could have been used to pay all the damn backlog of claimants instead.
    My advice to any Veteran that is applying for Svc. Connected Disability or already has 100% P&T Svc. Connected Disability to do as I did and at the very same time, apply for Social Security Disability Income, providing you have the required years of work credits to qualify and make sure you make copies of everything and give Soc Sec relevant medical documentation to make or attempt to make your case because as long as you are 100% Svc. Connected, you can concurrently receive SSDI with no offset and THEN use Medicare and private Dr.’s and not even use the VA at all.
    I realize not everyone has this option but I can with certainty that if I had continued to use the VA Health Services, I would have been six feet under years ago…and THAT was told to me by my Infectious Disease Dr. whom is a foremost researcher and holds several degrees and still consults the CDC. My case was the fact the VA recklessly ignored my civilian Dr.’s Genotype and Phenotype tests showing only a specific drug cocktail available would be effective since I have a highly resistant strain. (I received Hep B from a surgical environment and/or tainted blood from USAF Dr.’s and to make things even worse I also ended-up having HIV+ in the mix), and the VA refused to acknowledge medical tests and facts from a Dr. whose curriculum vitae could gift wrap any given VA Dr.’s. Yes, one has to pay their own Medicare Premium out of your SSDI as well as Premium for Medicare Part D Drug Plan and all related copays…but if you are receiving 100 Military Svc. Connected Disability Income, you definitely can afford the peace of mind and your very life may depend upon it.
    If this helps even ONE other Veteran, it was worth typing this out with my neuropathic hands.
    Seems to me the VA created their own extra special SLUSH FUND with this $10 BILLION and they cannot even wait for proper statistics or polling, and already know what they rather spend it on…more bonuses, shitty under-qualified so-called Dr.’s, and as aforementioned, their new soon to be bedfellow, GO ogle, or whomever wins this pending contract for electronic records…or…diverted to the War Machine, as of this morning’s news, I would bet $ that we are again going to soon have ground troops in the huge kitty litter box called the Middle East!

    Veteran’s Choice Card–what an OXYMORONIC name for a shitty program that probably has already incurred Veteran deaths from hanging by the very red tape the program is finely knitted with.

    Lastly, I do not think President Obama has done nearly enough regarding all the problems with the dysfunctional VA. How about MANDATING all members of Congress to only use the VAHS…then we would see changes! Oh, silly me…Congress has ALREADY given themselves a free ticket to OPT OUT of “Obama Care”…does the VA even realize they are INCURING anxiety and affecting people’s PTSD and other health issues with this dizzying madness?!!!
    Sure they do. It’s the ONE thing they do well.

  7. I gave copy of the VA Choice Card to my private doctor… to evaluate for health care. Of the same building is a VA Outpatient Clinic; but, my experience with the VA is the VA couldn’t find of government records, including the DVA’s INtraNET, of my service in Vietnam exposed to herbicides; I found the January 2010 Compensation & Pension Bulletin Policy (211) and June 2010 with specific information. My medical records of April 2014 should have my diabetes listed Uncontrolled. The VA down graded it to Controlled for THEIR purposes . The VA still has not rated my aneurysms: one upper large artery, one lower large artery. The VA refuse to see that my erectile dysfunction is linked to my ischemic heart disease ( lack of blood flow). The Buffalo DVA appears not to have read The Nehmer Training Class March 2010.The VA wants to link my E.D. to Diabetes; The Buffalo DVA June 05, 2014 Decision is that The Buffalo DVA Examiner diagnosed my ischemic heart disease to as early as 2000. The Nehmer Court order gives the Buffalo DVA twenty-one days to pay the RETRO compensation. Instead, the Buffalo DVA and/or DVA Attn: Nehmer Working Group Washington DC sent my claim to the Board of Veterans Appeal (Board); back-logged to 2012. The Nehmer Court Order gives priority to Nehmer claims. The operator representative at the Board of Veterans Appeals indicated that my claim is not listed Nehmer. My appeal on Form 9 is to have my claim processed to The Nehmer Court Order: The Nehmer Training Guide (211A) February 2011 Revised; as, it should have been done so in the first place. What’s up with the VA ? Likewise, Why would anyone give up private doctors and hospitals and have the VA as their immediate health care provider after deny, deny, deny, to future deny, deny, deny ? I wish that I could sanction the DVA for all of it’s TORTS. [email protected]

  8. I am one vet out of 8.6 million vets that received the card and I am to use mine to see a local doctor. However, since I live in a rural area, the local doctor is the only one “authorized” for me to use. If he orders a hearing test for example, I have to go through the VA (no testing facilities outside the 40 mile radius). It does help for things like the common issues you’d see a doctor for, like an ache or pain but for the big issues, the “card people” say I am not approved because I have to go to the city. If I need to see a psychologist for my PTSD, I still have to go inside the VA system because there aren’t any in the rural areas. I don’t want to see a VA psychologist who has the government’s best interests in mind. I want to see one with MY best interest in mind.

    Why can’t we just do away with the VA and give vets a choice program like medicare/medicaid? Doing so would give all vets their choice of care.

    Why can’t we, who put our lives on the line, have better care than congress who bask in the D.C. sunshine and great health care?

    Is that too much to ask???

    DO AWAY WITH THE VA!

    • Those of you who want to do away with the VA so you can choose the doctor are denying any choice for those of us who prefer care at VA facilities. That doesn’t seem fair now does it? Or is CHOICE only for those who don’t want to go to the VA?

      • Is it fair for 40+ vets to die waiting for the VA to improve? Is it fair for many thousands to wait months to have serious health problems addressed?

      • Stan the Man :

        No one is taking your right away from going to the VA But our rights based on how the Choice Program was set up denies us our right as 100% disabled veterans and disabled veterans from getting the competent care we deserve . I worked with veterans in the system so I know.

        JUst be aware of this since you dont appear to ask questions. Why, as an example, have agent orange vets complained they do not get to see specialist in the VAMC system. Very simple answer. Because most of the speciality clinics are filled with interns . yes interns who are not supervised !! If one goes to as an example the eye clinic where hundreds of vets have to be referred to at VAMC Philadelphia you have 8 to 10 unsupervised interns who are making diagnosis and treatments on you with no supervision… The licensed?? Chinese doctor, by the way ,the department head, who gets huge bonuses by having such interns and saving the VA money, is out on the golf course or in his office or wherever!!

        Then Stan the man you have unsupervised interns in the VA emergency rooms or physicians assistants with no licensed doctors . Then you also have in outpatient surgery, unsupervised interns doing such procedures without supervision of any licensed doctor present!!

        Then Stan the Man , you have supposed doctors who have been sued lost their license or have medical malpractice lawsuits or negligence lawsuits in other states or physicians who cant get insured on the outside so they come to the VA to practice . or foreign graduates of medical schools who work as physicians at the VA and aren’t licensed

        You Stan, dont understand the VA medical system at all !! I do I was a psychologist and before that a psycho therapist and an Director of Geriatric MH PHP programs and then an Executive Director and have worked in veterans programs !!.

        Stan if you do your homework you will see that the federal and state hospital systems do not have to abide by the same requirements the private sector physicians and hospitals do Thus federal and state hospital systems have exemptions from state law on private licensing in private hospitals .Its case of do as I say but dont do as I do .

        Its why there is such medical malpractice and negligence going on at the VA, Federal and State facilities.

        Stan have you ever asked yourself why even in state mental hospitals they have locked and unlocked mental health wards yet in many VA facilities they only have locked mental health ward even if you get hit over the head or have some depression or something minor . There is a law called least restrictive environment federally for civil rights of all persons with disabilities and mental health disabilities The VA breaks that law by such mental health facilities with only locked wards for voluntary treatment of patients who are no threat to themselves or others !!

        The bottom line Stan is the next time you go to a big clinic at a VAMC or your doctor just ask this:

        Are you or are you not a licensed physician in this state. If a person says he is a doctor then say” are you in fact licensed in this state??” If they continue and say yes I am a doctor again ask” Are you licensed in this state?” The intern.or resident or unlicensed doctor at the VA will say this”

        Well the VA allows me to be called a doctor”

        Be careful Stan who you are dealing with and who is treating you or should I say who wants to train on you without supervision and physician licensing . If one has a license then vets can at least go after such license with the state licensing board !!

        Lee Horowitz, M.Ed, CAGS
        US Navy, Disabled Vietnam Era Veteran
        Veterans advocate and veterans civil rights advocate
        [email protected]

  9. I am one of those Vets who were DEEMED unqualified, even though the nearest VA (an outreach clinic) is more than 40 miles and can NOT handle EMERGENCIES.
    I was told the distance is measured in a STRAIGHT LINE, well the roads from my home to the clinic is full of CURVES. I travel 17 miles before the 25 miles sign appears. OH, if only I had a plane or was a crow.

  10. I suggest you all share the heck out of this post and ask all your friends to write about their experience with the card. I too have heard that it takes forever to set up once you identify a need for an appointment. Sounds like VA is spreading some false information to support their agenda.

    • Both I and my Congressman Pitts -R-Pa Vietnam era veteran were lied to about the Choice Program and to this date its never been corrected by Choice nor have I received any apology from my Congressmen nor his staff here in Berks County reading Pa They bought the lie the Chopice program gave them and told me the same lie the Choice program gave them without any further investigation at all !! Shame on the Congressmen such as Pitts who serve on the VA committee of Congress yet he does not have vet on his staff here in Reading dealing o knowing veterans issues Nor does he come to see us Vietnam Veterans at post 131 VVA !! See my former post

      The problem is there is no law, no rules that when one apples for choice with the scheduling office of a VA hospital till it gets approved at that hospital and then by the Choice program itself can take another 30-120 days thus derating what the program is even about I confronted choice and Comgresman Pitts office on this and they did nothing Then the other problem is finding a private physician who will take an IOU from the VA

      The facts are if a survey was taken 90% of a veterans want a private full coverage insurance card to be given to them rather then go to the dread VA to see unsupervised interns working on us as guiena pigs, incompetent and unlicensed physicians many who have had lawsuits who come to the VA., etc

      The insurance that VA workers receive is far better then anything at the VA They can get laser knee surgery, second opinions, laser prostate surgery, and medications not available at VA hospitals The VA employees have better health acre for themselves and their families then that provided by the VA !!

      Lee Horowitz M.Ed, CAGS
      US Navy , Disabled Vietnam Era Veteran
      Veterans advocate and veterans civil rights advocate
      [email protected]

  11. Concerned Veterans For America is all over this. Watch this from Fox news this morning.

    Copy and paste it in your browser.

  12. What a waste. Say it cost 1 dollar to produce this worthless card that’s 8 mill … Now I’m seeking continuation of acupunture at 1200 for 15 appointments. Shameful collectively it all is.

  13. Choice? What Choice? I live 69 miles from my nearest VA Medical Center (Wilkes Barre, PA). There is a clinic 25 miles from me, but it is part of another VISN and the only service they provide is primary care and labs. As you know, I can’t use one VISN for primary care and the other for all the rest of my issues. But, since I am within 40 miles of ANY VA facility, I am not eligible unless an appointment can’t be made within 30 days. Then, if they can’t see me they want me to travel 90 miles to go to NYC because an appointment is available there. (I had attempted to get an urology appointment). This program is nothing more than another Lucy pulling the football, as Charlie Brown tries to kick it. AAUGH! (Charlie Brown’s quote when he is flipping upside down).

    With all the restrictions, I just said F**k it. Fortunately, I have Medicare and have been switching to private care. Last year, I paid about $2300 in deductibles. You know what? It was (and will be) the best money I ever will spend.

    One other comment. I am on other veteran sites, and I have seen the complaints and confusion regarding the Vet Choice program. Veterans, on line who complain, are but a small fraction of those being shafted (again). I would venture the VA looks at this and figures well there are only a few thousand making trouble – so what? If we really want to get something accomplished, we should do what the WWI vets did and occupy Washington – a real million + man march. Veterans need something like the NRA, where everyone who is a Vet is represented with real lobbying power. Nothing against all the service organizations. However, anytime there are HVAC hearings we see anywhere from one to ten or so vet organizations testifying. Imagine, one person testifying that they represent a 8 million person voting block and telling the congress critters, vets will actively support only those politicians who are responsive to veteran needs – both in legislation and within their congressional offices.

  14. The “choice card” is crap and not being utilized by the VA for which it was intended. A CBOB can not provide “treatment” so why are CBOS’s counted as “treatment facilities?” No diagnostic testing is performed at our local CBOC. The VA wants to send us to Oklahoma City, a four hour drive, for a bone scan. Although VHA DIRECTIVE 1601 authorizes non-VA, the Patient Advocate in Muskogee, Oklahoma is now stating that they must use VA facilities first. Really? A facility that can do a bone scan not more than 20 minutes from our house and the VA wants us to drive four hours – one way! Can not use the “choice card” and now can not receive a fee basis authorization for non-VA care! All I can say is the VA’s ONLY concern is their own personal JOB SECURITY! Yep, I’m mad and having a real difficult time understanding why health care is so difficult!

  15. I received the choice card three times. Meaning the VA sent me three. I was approved for outside medical care for several medical conditions, two of which are not service connected, before the program was put into place. I don’t use the card at all and go through a VA rep at the hospital. I live within 40 miles of a major VA medical center, but they cannot get me timely appointments. I would much rather use outside medical providers. The real issue is convincing your health care provider to accept the lengthy VA payment process. Most health care providers use contract billing services and they provider actually has to convince their biller to deal with the VA and we all know everybody is jumping in line to do that!

  16. I have friends who received cards but did not know what to do with them. Some of us have not received anything. Calling the VA in Tucson, AZ for an appointment is next to impossible to get. One person went over and scheduled an appointment and was given one 60 days out.

    Yes, this is all a ploy to move the funds to another area. What happened to having oversight from the DAV and other Veterans groups?

  17. I have been trying to use mine since Dec. I live 90+ miles from a VA facility. Nothing yet, I’m not holding my breath.

    On Nov. 20 2014, I had major surgery @ ALM in SA, they sent me home after giving me C-diff.

    SS provided me with home health care.

    The VA set me a post operation follow up. The VA doctor said no driving for 6 weeks, I explained I would need transportation, they said it will be taken care of.

    I called the day before the appointment asking about transportation.

    I missed the appointment. They made another one and told transportation was my problem.

    I had 40+ staples in my gut, and couldn’t get to a doctor .

    I boiled my wire cutters and needle nose pliers and took them out myself.

    • Robert I to contracted C-Diff ,I cannot say definitively ,from Gene Taylor VA last April I was getting testosterone shots that I asked not to get anymore ,Because they can cause cancer in some people. And my family has Bracca1&2 cancer gene,they told me I had to take them,anyway That day the nurse gave the shot. is etched in memory. It was not my normal nurse anyway she was extremely busy & not doing things normally like the other nurse ,usually when you go in they go to pharmacy get bottle come back ask last 4 of social and pop Red cap off bottle of medicine ,and get a new sterile needle out of wrapper ,this was not the case that day she never left room for medicine instead she pulled a bottle out of cabinet red lid was gone. & instead of getting a sterile needle out of its wrapper she pulled open a drawer & there were 3 needles perfectly lined up,she grabbed one on the far left,pulled back what ever was in the bottle,and said that was to much squirted some in sink and rinsed the needle of with tap water. & she did not alcohol the injection site which was supposed to be my rump instead she put it into my kidney area,,Everything about that day was wrong. I came down with a violent Case C-Diff Had to go to Civillian ER they said they never seen anything like that,it was going to have to be sent to Mayo clinic. About an hour later they came back and quarenteened me to the room ,I was flipping out by this time.Anyway I have not been right since end of April I quit eating until end of June lived on Boost What I want to know is how many other people have contracted C-Diff ,I honest to God think they did this on purpose cannot prove it though .I do know this C-Diff killed 16,000 people last year it is # 1 on CDC web -site under letter C .and after I told my PCP Nurse they all turned on me at Gene Taylor they would not see me and stuck me with the ER Bill and I had to transfer out to a VA 180 miles away.I hope you are better. I know it sounds paranoid ,But I honestly think they tried to kill me.i am 51 and rated [email protected] 100% Disabled

      • I too, when I used to use the VA, contracted a REALLY BAD ASS CASE OF C-DIFF…and it was the VA totally ignoring what even was documented in my “Allergies” section of medical records, and the prescribing Dr. that placed me on that particular antibiotic should have known but guess did not take the time to read MY record, as it probably would have been easier if my records had been in some Indian Dialect or Middle Eastern….anyway, back then that was the very last straw as I had gone back to my civilian Infectious Disease Dr., whom immediately had me go to a Gastro Specialist, whom I still see these last 6 years. I was quarantined in a hospital room in the aftermath of this, had every test run on me in this Specialty’s Field, and my Gastro Spec. asked me, “Did the VA have all the documentation that you have had severe Irritable Bowel Disease (IBS) going all way back into your Active Duty time after you had been infected with Hep B and HIV after a surgery?” I said, “Yes!” My Gastro Spec. told me that ANY entry level LPN and most medical assistants KNOW that THAT particular antibiotic is NOTORIOUS for inducing C-DIFF, and especially so with people with my particular health issues and compromised immune system.

        Interesting that I had TWO civilian Specialists highly advising me to NOT USE THE VA because my SAFETY/LIFE DEEPENDED UPON IT. These same civilian Dr.’s assisted me with documentation that helped me win my 100% Svc. Connected Disability Claim…and other documents I had kept from in-service.

        C-DIFF is HIGHLY **contagious** and incredibly hard to get rid of and I have never been the same since, as if the gas burner was turned-up 300% on my already highly problematic Irritable Bowel Disease. I was in and out of being hospitalized as an in-patient THREE TIMES **just** from THAT VA mistake.

        I really wish I could say SOMETHING positive about my experiences with the VA but I unfortunately cannot and have never ever felt treated so much like a lessor person with sometimes outright obvious uncontainable DISDAIN, than I had by VA health.
        The VA even tried to minimize the C-DIFF, never apologizing, so it’s Medicare ONLY and civilian Dr.’s ONLY and luckily I do have that choice but most Veterans DO NOT and I was somewhat HOPEFUL that this Veteran’s Choice Program would help my fellow Veteran Brothers and Sisters to get the care they deserve and more safely. It’s incredibly hard at this point to view the VA with ANY “glass half-full” attitude. Using the VA over and over is right up there with other definitions of insanity…if a person is expecting a different outcome.
        **BEN**, how do you plan to address this “No Choice Card” potential defunding at perhaps a higher level you may have access to? All we can realistically do is each Veteran contact their respective Congressional Rep.’s office and ask them to NOT allow the VA to cancel this program and divert funds.
        Perhaps the new VA Secretary should try to walk in our shoes for a proper perspective, rather than orchestrated PSA’s.
        PERHAPS IT’S TIME FOR A HIGHLY ORGANIZED MILLION+ VETERAN MARCH ON WASHINGTON, D.C.!!!???!!???
        I also think Congressman Paul Ryan and Scott Walker are people to be REALLY afraid of in Presidential vetting going on now for potential candidates. They both have cold and heartless ways of defunding programs and totally ignoring their constituent’s voices. Paul Ryan makes no secret that he wants to defund Affordable Care Act and PRIVATIZE Social Security AND IS ONE OF THE **BIG PEOPLE** ON CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE (CBO)…time to be even more very very afraid!
        Time for these United States to have a HUGE ENEMA in D.C….the VA seems to be really constipated…a nice clinical way of saying they are FULL OF SHIT!
        Why am I not hearing about this plan to divert funding within the VA on the main stream media news?
        I have lost hope in “The Change You Can Believe In”, that our President initially ran for office on and feel bamboozled in voting for him first time.
        Sorry, rant over, but wanted to make an additional voice in the VA causing C-DIFF and am sure the number of Veteran’s that have or are experiencing this or things like it is very high.
        To quote Alice Cooper, “Are we all just humanary stew?!” [excerpt from song, “The Black Widow”]

      • namnibor, I had never heard of c-diff so I looked it up to see what it was and after reading your post and reading what c-diff is, I think that I may have it. I had another problem and was admitted to the Seattle VA and after a week in the hospital, I was released. After that I developed an abdominal/intestinal problem that was never really fixed. I complained about it and was told it was most likely, Chron’s, IBS, Jist, or something else (never got any type of testing to confirm any problem). I am now wondering if I actually had/have c-diff. The symptoms are so close to this and from what you have described you problems and the result it makes me wonder. I still have some problems to this day with my abdominal/intestines area and I have no idea what it could have been until now. I am going to have this checked to see if that is what it could be. I have and was only seen by the VA during that time and I had been getting iron IV’s from my other problem. After you telling of how your shot appointment went, it makes me wonder. I had a couple of people who were not that good when I was getting my iron treatments (I had to get iron IV’s at the rate of one IV a week. I usually went for eight weeks to get what they wanted me to have. This was repeated a few times) and I left there a few times questioning if they knew what they were doing (along with a big bruise where they had put in the IV and removed it). Now with your diagnosis and how you got it, add in my own treatment and the possibility of that could have happened to me as I did not pay that much attention to the procedure due to I had been getting it for so many weeks. It makes it more of a possibility now that I look at and into it. If so, Thanks VA. Another unnecessary illness given to you and so many of us. How many of us have to die before we get a fair deal?
        I don’t think we are asking for anything special, we just want quality HealthCare and the comfort of knowing that we are being treated well and correctly.
        I am sorry that you have to deal with this and I am hopeful that you will get over it completely and I hope that I don’t have it. If so, then it most likely was a result of the VA. Great.

  18. didn’t get mine until jan. called the number on card to find out how to use it. not sure that person knew how to explain how to use it. jest i got, was i call va, they decide if doctor is approved in program, if not va calls me back to find another doc. she didn’t know if there was a list of local docs we could check with first who were participating with the choice program. confusing to me. in the meantime, va has canceled specialty doc appts so i qualify in that regard and also round trip mileage. almost too confusing to deal with really. person on the phone didn’t speak well enough or know enough to really help a disabled person. if va is going to grab the money funds already and call it a failure, then they planned it that way i would say. like i said, we just got our cards in jan! that’s just a couple of weeks ago, and VA is already calling it a failure and want the money!

  19. I was told by a Patient Advocate at the Portland OR VAH in Dec. 2014 that I would be receiving a card for this new program soon. That I was just going into effect.

    This was in responce to this facility trying to make good on me being one of the vet’s that had been put on two phoney secret surgery lists (one for a total left hip replacment and one for a total left knee replacment) and the three years that this debicle has gone on.

    Now this occurs. My new card for the Veterans Choice Program and the one for my son did not even arrive until Thursday of last week. These cards are not even useful untill you apply to use them and wait for the VA’s per use approval.

    Just another case of stall me off hoping I will die before they spend any money on me.

    My situation is as follows: after being shot in my right knee in Vietnam in combat I lost my right knee. ( I have a Buddy Letter from the member of my squad that was next to me when I was shot and a Buddy Letter from the Medic that patched me up) I eventually paid myself for my replacment. Being I took a long time to do this on my own the damage started to wear out my left hip and left knee. The Portland VAH staff placed me on a list for a total left hip replacment and then on another list for a total left knee replacment. These were phoney lists. Now three years later I still needs those two operations PLUS one for a total right hip replacement and now two carpel tunnel operations because I have been using walkers for three years. So because they did not perform two operations I now need five. Add to that that I have been on strong pain meds for over three years. All this because I was drafted and assured my health care would be taken care because of my service to my country.

    • I got my card about 2 months ago . and when I called they told me it was a mistake . this government and the VA system is nothing more than a joke

  20. I just received the card 2 days ago, and it’s already about to be made worthless.

    There’s no “choice” involved.

    It should be named the “Veteran’s DECOY” card.

  21. Yup. I called the number on my card and spoke to the person who answered the phone. I found out these people are not really a unit of the VA, but a company called “Healthnet” who is a contractor to the VA and is supposed to answer your questions as dictated to them by the VA. They practically read an answer to your question that was written by the VA for them to read to you. Healthnet is an insurance company that people use if they are on medicaid and makes their money doing work for the government (Fed or State). They bid for and won a contract to help with the Choice Card program as well. They don’t tell you they are Healthnet but will if you ask them who the fuck they are (They disguise thenselves as “The VA” because they are told to do that).
    I asked her the same question about my outpatient clinic, which is nearby, is not the place I have to go to for certain appointments, but have to go to a VA hospital which is well over 40 miles away. She told me she gets many complaints about that and she gave me the VA medical number in Kansas to call. I called them and told them there is a flaw in this program that is eliminating the majority of veterans frrom using the Choice Card because of this stipulation about “40 miles from the NEAREST VA facility. They told me they were getting many, many complaints about this and they have been telling everyone to write “A letter of Disagreement” to the “Office of the Director” of the VA hospital I have to go to to get my treatments and explain this snaffu. She said if all of the VA main hospitals get enough of this type of complaint, then the VA (in D.C.) will have to decide on what to do about it.
    I told all these people I spoke to that it’s very clear the VA did this intentially from the start knowing it will cause a problem. I also told them that if the upper people at the VA who drafted this crap were in a business school class at any college’s business school and presented this kind of bullshit to any business professor at any management class, they would take the jerk by the ear and throw the bum out. They thought that was funny.
    Glad to see the VA has a sense of humor. Too bad the joke is on us.
    Will Bob McDonald get anywhere with this organization, ever?
    What do you all think?

    • bd, something that I just though of with this being a “contracted” company and not the actual VA. Being that this is a contracted healthcare company and it is contracted through the VA (and I am sure that the govt. had some input on “who” to contract) that would make one think that this company is getting paid a bunch (I am sure that it is quite a high amount) of money to handle this so called “choice card” and it appears from all of the replies to this blog that no one is getting approved for this card and its supposedly usable service. So why is this company getting paid by our govt. with our tax dollars for doing nothing but denying benefits that the VA stated us vets would be eligible for? It would seem as if this company was chosen for a reason and that reason is to deny, deny, and to find some way to deny anyone who wants to use this “system”.
      So we are paying (how much is this company getting to deny us???) for a company that was chosen by the govt. to serve us vets for a service that the VA knew would not help us vets in any way other than to put on a good showing during the TV hearings that the civilian public would think that the VA is actually trying to help us. What another waste of money that the VA and the govt. is throwing away again to make them look good and nothing is actually being done. It almost sounds as if something should be looked into to see if there was any “funny” business going on. I am sure that the VA chose this company and told them to find a way to deny anyone who wants to use this and we will pay you a ton of money to do so. The VA knew that the money would then be taken from the choice card program and will disappear into the black hole known as the VA, never to be found again (HINT: look into the pockets of some of the higher ups in the VA system). I could be wrong, nah.

      • fig8: Healt6hnet just staffs the telephone operators you talk to when you call the number on the card. The VA outsourced that task to them probably because it was the easiest and quickest way to do (rather than assembling a bunch of VA employees and set up a call center). Healthnet already has people who are used to interface with all the people who are covered by them for other federal programs like medicaid. When you call, you get a rep based out in California who explains how this choice card works and are able to tell you if you meet the VA criteria to use it. They don’t make the rules, they relay the rules to you that the VA made and instructed them on. However, in my mind, I notice that all these contracted parties do work for government organizations and speak for the government. It’s a whole big government party…and we are the unwelcomed guests.
        The reason I expounded all of this on my comments was to detail just exactly how the VA is setting this all up for failure for us while at the same time broadcasting to everyone how they are giving us “a choice”. What’s the use of this choice card if you recieve treatment that can only be done by a hospital 40+ miles a way, but should you live near a VA clinic 10 miles away then that becomes completely invalid.
        The truth, my friend, is the VA did this intentionally to provoke the current outcome of eliminating the amount of veterans able to use the choice program because of the criteria. They eliminated at least 50% of us from “choice”. The VA did this because, I believe, they have BIG trouble paying the private providers on a timely basis (or at all). The whole choice program will fail anyway because no private doctor wants to deal with the VA anyway. You will see … and in the not-so-distant future…failure of the choice program. And they are telling us all to write “A letter of Disagreement” to the hospital directors about something so obviously shitty and wait until they get enough complaints where they will decide what to do? I ain’t wasting my fucking time.

  22. So, from the comments I am reading, it appears every SC veteran will get a choice card? I have never gotten one and I believed it was because I live within 40 miles of a VA. Problem is, I cannot get appointments within 30 days. I was told in December I would get hearing aids at an appointment in March. I saw an incompetent nurse in January for an annual checkup the VA said was required. I told her I needed a followup with the surgeon who did my knee replacement last April because of complications. I still have not heard from them about this. I would much rather go to private doctors than the VA, but I haven’t been given a choice.

    I knew as soon as Congress passed the extra funding that it was a RIP-off. Federal agencies have to go back to Congress to ask that appropriated funds be reprogrammed. Unless vets raise hell about this, the VA will get away with this scam.

  23. The card arrived last week and it’s too little and too late for me as I finally went on Medicare on Dec1st. I’ve already seen my new primary care doctor at the HMO I signed up with. When I told my new doctor about the wait times I had to endure to see a primary care doctor or an NP my doctor was astounded and I live within the 40 mile distance to the VA hospital. This doctor has already ordered a battery of tests on me to see what the VA missed, ignored or hasn’t told me about. I have two appointments at the HMO this month.

    • I live over 65 miles ( using public roads) from a va facility in colorado, was told on the phone by this contractor, that they use “straightline mileage” ( which makes it about 36 miles) to determine if you are eligiable, not roads, but draw a straightline from your house to the facility…yah right…I guess my car would have to drive up the sides of the Rocky Mountains to make the ” straightline mileage” requirement. It is hard enough to try and get medical appointments and care in Colorado at the va, not to mention that no one calls you back, and the care here in southern colorado is HORRIBLE. It would be nice if they investigated this section of the state including the Colorado Springs C & P examiners who are a disgrace.

      • I was told the same thing when I dialed the “*66” number posted on that little plastic card. Though I have traveled the 49.3 miles (each way) to my nearest VA CBOC for almost 5 years (and have been reimbursed mileage, by the VA, for 45.3 miles each trip), the voice on the other end of the phone stated that “their” BingMap showed I only lived 34.6 miles from the clinic. Every single one of the members of my VFW Post I queried–those who’d received the card–had also been denied in the exact manner, though most of them were even further, geographically, than I was. Well, a few of us took the time to drive on up to the CBOC in question and asked to meet with the facility manager, a veteran VA administrator. We each explained the situation and she (who is also the clinic’s Patient Advocate) went to her computer and confirmed, per the very “BingMaps” we’d been told had disqualified us, that each of us resided beyond the 40-mile limit (which we already knew) and that we should have been declared eligible with the first phone call. Her only recommendation was that we file a Congressional Complaint. My gut feeling is that we’ve all been declared ineligible for the 40-mile option by design and that those disqualifications are the basis on the supposed desire that none of us wish to seek non-VA health care although each and every one of us do. And so it goes…

      • Jim,

        You and others at your veterans post should not have to write your congressman at all period if the patient advocate is telling you your eligible for Choice according to her Bing Map !! In fact your patient advocate is no advocate at all to in fact tell you that They need to get off their lazy ass and call Choice and fight for your rights I would as group from your post schedule a meeting with the Director of the facility along with the patient advocate who did not want to do their job as they often do . Bring reporters with you in the newspapers Veterans groups post and others need to start doing this tactic and you all will get results The VA hates publicity They only know two things bad publicity and lawsuits and I would think of both since your patient advocate is breaking your civil rights to be your advocate for Choice

        Lee Horowitz M.Ed, CAGS
        US Navy Vietnam Era Disabled Vietnam Era veteran
        [email protected]

      • yea, they told me Bing miles too. I told them I don’t own a helecopter, and my car doesn’t ride too well over trees, ditches, streams, valleys and brush. And cops will give me a ticket if I weaved on and off the highways. That’s when they said to call Topeka, Kansas VA med line and expain this to them. This needs explaining?

  24. Just another administration cover up of an ill-conceived plan to whitewash over the govt’s mistakes !

  25. WE SHOULD DEMAND OF ALL OUR CONGRESSMEN AND SENATORS FOR A PIECE OF LEGISLATION THAT WOULD MAKE THEM, THEIR STAFFS, AS WELL AS THE PRESIDENT AND HIS STFF SUBJECT TO MEDICAL CARE ONLY VIA THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION

    IF THEY THINK ITS SUCH A GREAT SYSTEM WHY WOULD THEY NOT ACCEPT SUCH LEGISLATION AND VOTE ‘YES’ EVERY VETERAN SHOULD CALL AND BOMBARD HIS OR HER LEGISLATOR FOR SUCH A BILL AND SO SHOULD ALL VETERANS ORGANIZATIONS . ITS TIME FOR A REALITY CHECK !!

    FEDERAL EMPLOYEES HAVE BETTER HEALTH CARE AND COVERAGE THEN THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION !!

    LEE HOROWITZ, M.ED, CAGS
    US NAVY VETERAN – DISABLED VIETNAM ERA VETERAN
    [email protected]

  26. I have read all of the above posts and certainly agree, the Choice card is so extraordinarily difficult to use that most Vets will/do eventually cease any endeavor to use it. I received my Choice card in mid-December and spent over 13 hours of the phone with Healthnet attempting to get appointments with private doctors. In frustration, I finally stopped. Talking to Healthnet is like talking to a wall. Every comment (post) above is relevant and should be taken seriously! I am 100% service connected but over the past 3 years, using Medicare have transitioned from the VA to private doctors. I knew that the Doc’s I was seeing at the VA were incompetent but I thought that the VA had good technology, so my plan was to use private doctors and have any of the expensive testing done at the VA (MRI’s, biopsies, etc.) to avoid the Medicare 20% deductible that can really add up quickly. Last year my private cardiologist ordered a Nuclear Stress Test, Echocardiogram, and a 30 day heart monitor that the VA did indeed provide. The resulting reports written by the VA said that my heart was fine, i.e., no problems with my heart. When I took these reports to my private cardiologist, he told me that they were worthless and asked me to get the Imaging and data from the tests so that he could write his own reports, which I did. When I subsequently met with him, he told me that not only did I in fact have Coronary Heart Disease, but that I had also had a Heart Attack. He went on to tell me that the test results were so obvious that even a Primary Care Physician should have been able to make this diagnosis.

    This is but one of the many horror stories we have all heard regarding VA Healthcare Services, but I am one of the lucky ones; I am still alive.

    I urge all of my brother veterans to continue to make our voices heard, continue to tell our horror stories, and make sure that you (each of us) communicate these horror stories to our Congressional representatives, and possibly them to our local media (newspapers and television stations), for sooner or later someone will have to listen.

    Benefits to disabled Veterans constitute a social contract between us and our government, a contract of reciprocity that our government is breaking every day, and no nation in history that has ignored the needs of those who have served, has ever survived. Our elected officials need to get this message!

  27. I will say it again…the VA is required by law to go back to Congress to request their approval on using these funds for something other than how Congress intended. Federal agencies do this all the time…but congressional approval is required. Doing so without their approval could result in people going to prison. Call your congresscritters and tell them they should not approve that request.

    The ONLY caveat to this is If congress wrote the funding approval so sloppy that there is no need for their permission, which would be unheard of. Unless congress intended all along for this to happen.

    • The last time anyone in govt went to prison was Nixon`s crew. Prison like Martha Stewart Prison, With Tennis courts Swimming pools Movie Stars. House arrest with the dog chewing their monitor off while eating Jr. `s Homework.
      They got me on the Choice Card Even tho They pay milage for 96 miles to the clinic & Back NOW, it From the TOP of my Zip To the Bottom of The Clinic`s Zip “AS The Crow Flies” Straight line. Sense I cant fly I have to stay on the road. They DID Their Homework. Is how the Magic # 40 from. To see my Specialist its just under 400 Miles but, He don`t count. For some reason. I have to HAVE a local Dr. Send a Request to the V.A. To have the honor of treating me. They Will see if He`s on the list. Some Specialist Like to get paid. Not too many want it to cost them to do the paperwork. What is this world coming to? They want to be PAID??? My God. He`s 50 & still paying his student loan. To Specialize in Something. Probably still in school.

      Point is, They don`t Give a Rats Ass about you or me. Long after They kill me, There will ALWAYS BE VETERANS To replace the ones like I replaced and have gone to their reward thru the Pearly Gates. But, ONE DAY It wont be like it is.
      I, MY Country ass, Can FIX the V.A. over night. Make it LAW That Every Senator, Congressman & their Families Can ONLY BE TREATED At the “Best Healthcare System in the Country, the V.A.” They Say They want what is best for the Veterans, Well It should be good enough for a Senator if he`s willing to get in line with the rest of us. Oh And, They Can`t Be allowed to tell the appointment girl that they are a Member of the House & Senate.
      Hell,. It would be like club Med. Sippin Cocktails on the beach. in a week.

      Always have Always Will. Good Luck Vets see you on the other side. God Bless.

      • Key words in my comment were, “could result in”. I agree though, I can’t see anyone going to jail over it. Congress gets cranky when fed bureaucrats spend money not directed by Congress. At most, some flunky might have to lose their job at one agency and move to another.

  28. I did get the Veterans Choice Program card and started using it however I have not been able to get back into the doctors office due to my very recent back surgery.

    You see I do think the program works well, its the unfortunate factor that the VA did not educate and or market the program well enough to educate us Veterans how to use or what to do with the card. I however became educated and found that there are a plethora of benefits to this program that is/are accessible by the use of the program.

    The problem is what are the benefits, how do I use the program and where can I go to use the program.

    I have read many documents which came out of the VA and I read nothing about Customer Care and Satisfaction, Convenience to the Veteran nor do I read understanding to the Veterans Needs. I only read about the dollar spent, or how to improve research with other medical services. The best article I read was about VA leading the edge on medical research in Telemedicine and Telehealth. Well if that was the case and I definitely live by far more than 40 miles outside the VA facility.

    I am afraid of using the VA not just because but because of how I have been treated and the stories. Yes I am young 40 yr Veteran and Yes I do my research but I will be damned if I find myself dying on a table at the VA or having to wait over 30days to be seen or finding that my VA benefits have decreased for “just because” reasons.

    I am a Service Connected Disabled Veteran and I know due to my rating I am eligible for services but I work full time and it takes approximately 2 hrs each way to get to the VA and back for specialty care and 1,25 hrs to my local CBOC (which is still outside the 40 miles). Even at the CBOC I feel I am not listened to or understood. I dont know about the care at the CBOC but I will say that when I did make my first visit with my New PCP outside of the VA using the Veterans Choice Program I was treated like a person, fairly and with consideration and understanding. The interesting part was that this doctor is a Veteran and was a Physician in the military. He treated me with respect and passion as well as as a patient and listened whereas does not happen at the VA.

    With my experiences at the VA I have felt:

    -like i am on a conveyor belt (pulling ticket and waiting to be called like a DMV office)
    -no one listens
    -no understanding
    -no considerations
    -passion
    -patient care and safety is definitely gone
    -considerations
    -convenience
    -poor communications skills
    -poor documentation skills

    I just had this major surgery and requested Convalescent leave, and apparently I have requested disability compensation of which is confusing in the first place. With the Convalescent leave I was finally approved after several delivery methods of the 20+ documents and resubmitted. But then I was sent to do a Revaluation on the particular 4 weeks after the major surgery and the doc who was to conduct the surgery couldn’t complete the eval forms due to the recent surgery. I had to drive, with my brace and cane over 30 miles to this place for 10 mins for nothing.

    I then received a claim processing letter stating I needed to submit documents for the claim at which I applied for. I contacted the VA on this and they couldn’t tell me what the claim the packet was for in fact they could only tell me what the form/ packet sais. I knew that, why did I waste 45mins listening to elevator music to hear the same thing I just read. I needed clarifications.

    You see its the convenience of it all, the ability to understand and communicate effectively with passion and care. The VA Medical center is labeled as such yes but they still label us as VETERANS within the facility where medical services are provided and we are not considered patients but only Veterans. Because were VETERANS were not PATIENTS? we do not deserve patient care and the satisfaction of hospital services as is provided outside the VA.

    Because you mailed out 8.6 VA Program Choice cards does not mean we understand what to do with them nor understand that are we going to loose our benefits (one of many questions I get on the matter) if we choose the program, or “is this spam”, is someone using an illegal tactic to use my information, what happens if I lost the card. Nothing specific to the program to better educate the Veteran on the program was identified in the one page document I thoroughly read about the program to better help me what to do. Had I not called however I would have just gone to the doctors office though. Once you get through the Red Tape its a great program and has been a benefit to have because I know that they will not put a local CBOC here and should.

    Instead of worrying about spending money worry about the care and compassion, worry about patient care and safety, convenience and considerations. Learn to listen….oh and Customer Service..

    This is my take…

    sorry all…had a mindful…

  29. This CHOICE program should not been defined by specific distances from the nearest VA medical facility and should address the treatment of service connected disabilities primarily. If a vet is not service connected, then no CHOICE eligibility unless going through Voc Rehab or awaiting an initial Rating Decision after just leaving the military. If it isn’t feasible for the vet to get himself to the VA and he cannot be driven by the DAV transportation network van and he is service connected, THEN seeing a local clinician is appropriate.

    The majority of veterans seeking treatment at the VA do not have any service connected disabilities. It is fiscally unsound to start paying for private doctors for non service connected vets. I think to ensure timely quality care at the VA keep the dollars to spend on those of us who were disabled by military service, and be very selective about servicing veterans without service connected conditions.

  30. I have been attempting to get Physical Therapy through Choice for 2 months now. Every week I talk between 3 and 6 hours on the phone trying to get them to set up a simple consult. Before when it was just the VA I was working with I got the outside consult in a week and was sitting in the PT office within 2 weeks. After talking to over 20 people between the VA and Choice I have determined that the biggest problem is they do not have a direct line from the Choice Team to the Appointment Team. There is no phone connection between the two departments, there is also no way to talk to an Appointment Team person. This is the worst set up, I have ever had to deal with. I have complained to the VA, and my Congressman, as Choice will not contact me back. When I finally had an appointment, the next day someone in the appointment center (of which no one can talk to) canceled that appointment and attempted to set me up with a PT that is about 90 miles from me. This is beyond ridiculous!!

    • Finally got my PT referral. Only had to call back 2 more times to have them send the authorization to the Provider. I am looking forward to being able to walk and sleep without extreme pain again.

  31. MY BELIEF IS SHORT BUT ITS STRAIGHT TO THE POINT IF ANY OUR VETERANS CAME OUT UNDER HONORABLE CONTITIONS THEY SHOULD BE ABLE GOT TO ANY DOCTOR THEY WANT FOR FREE CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW MY NAME IS ARNOLD C.. FROM PRESCOTT VALLEY, ARIZONA OOOORA SEMPER FI

  32. I’m just a stupid combat veteran that’s being declared incompetent by the va because I have ptsd witch they rate as 30%
    disabling :0/

    But my thoughts on there choice thing ?

    I can’t get an optometrist appointment anytime in the next year SOOO to fix that the va comes up with a program where I can see a non va doc …

    I just got to get an appointment with a ca optometrist to say i need an appointment with a whole new va cluster f agency to authorize me to get an apointment with said non va doc

    Sounds fairly strait foreword ?!?!??

    But I’m incompetent
    Maybe I should apply for a va job ….

    • Wait a minute
      My eyes arn’t working right
      What is it I have to do again?

      Can someone explain it to me slow ???!?!??
      I’m not too bright …

      Hmmm wish I could get a va job …
      I could end up running that joint …

    • Here’s some fun
      Go use your card to try and cash a check or get into a titty bar ….

      No luck

      Oh what the va just spent millions on giving every vet a worthless plastic card ?

  33. This program is a decoy! I am currently rated at 70% I received this card, because I am within 40 mile to an outpatient clinic I don’t qualify, therefore I have to drive 125 miles to a VA hospital, Birmingham, (VAB) VA when I could easily go the Huntsville or Redstone. Now I had a consult from my personal care VA doctor, sent to VAB on Jan 8, 2015, I have been emailing and calling for this appointment, so I finally got thru to the clinic and the nurse said “your consult has been here since 1/8/15 but no doctor has read it, this was on 3/4/15 when I called. No movement until I called. I open up “MY Heath Vet” and look for upcoming appointments I see this appointment now scheduled for 4/30/15. So I am going crazy with sinusitis and tinnitus, headaches as well. I contact Veterans Choice Program, the person on the other end states we don’t see an appointment for you, call back in a few days. I said it is in My Health Vet. This is just another cover-up program wasting tax payer dollars, and now I hear Tri-Care is going away forcing more vets into the VA Hospital. I just wish I knew what to do, and where the heck is our fought for REPRESENTATION in congress!

  34. The Veterans Choice Program will not work. By allowing it to work, the VA would be shooting itself in the foot. Allowing us to go to convenient local providers would make the VA less necessary and would cause a bureaucratic nightmare for the VA officials who would try to hold on the their jobs. Let’s get real……… the choice program will never work. We would be better off on Medicaid or illegal. they can go right down the street for care………

    • Ive tried twice to use this program, 4 mos to get and ENT exam, 4 mos and still waiting for and MRI appointment from the Birmingham VA. The civilian doctors are not much better, you have to through steps to get what you want and it costs a fortune, Doctor visit 35$ X-ray 40$, weeks later all they want to do is for you to come back to the office and another 35$. When I received my ENT appointment it took 2 months and several phone calls to the VA to get a scheduled appointment, than 2 more months wait, so I called the choice program and was told they have no record of my appointment, that I had to call back. I said this program is a “POS” and the young man on the other end thanked me for my service and hung up. I don’t blame him I was pissed. I have to drive 125 miles one way to hospital. Every time it is an all day trip and a day off work.

      • Same here…called the VA at the end of March because I was passing blood…VA told me I had between 2 and 8 hours to go to an emergency room, which I did at a nearby hospital. The doctors found a large mass on my bladder and wanted to set up an appointment with a urologist for the following week. I told him I needed to set something up through the VA. Called the Choice Program as I am 60 miles from the nearest VA facility. Took 4 weeks of calling every week to finally have an appointment set up with a urologist 20 miles away. He scoped me and said he wanted to set up surgery for the following week and wanted to set up a pre-op physical. Sorry, I have to have it set up through the VA. Six more weeks of calling Choice and being given names of doctors in my area that deal with VA patients and being promised every time that the info would go to their supervisors and be taken care of right away. Yesterday, I was told an appointment was set up for me at a nearby provider, only to be called by that provider and told they do not work with the VA. Called Choice to notify them that that provider would not work with the VA. They kept asking me “Well what exactly does a pre-op physical entail?” HOW DO I KNOW? JUST SET UP AN APPOINTMENT! YOU’VE GIVEN ME THE NAMES AND ADDRESSES OF DOCTORS IN MY AREA THAT DEAL WITH VA PATIENTS AND THEN YOU SET ME UP WITH SOMEONE THAT DOESN’T? HOW INCOMPETENT ARE YOU PEOPLE? “Oh, we’re sorry…we’ll have to get back to you shortly.” That means I won’t be hearing from them unless I call them. I’m done with Choice. Monday I will call the VA and set up a physical at a VA facility so I can get this done. Tired of waiting and tired of hearing “Thank you for your service.” They could give a rat’s ass.

  35. I have been dis enrolled twice by the contractor (TriWest) despite the fact that there are no criteria for dis enrollment according to the Choice Champion ( ie the VA employee who co ordinates with Tri Care). I’m guessing the contractor took it upon themselves to dis enroll me because I cancelled two appointments they made with providers 300 miles from my home!!!

    Here’s another thing to check out. My private pay surgeon tried to sign on as a provider because he is genuinely sympathetic with the plight of us Vets. After being told he would be paid at Medicare rates he received a multi page small print contract which stated he would have to pay 35% of his Medicare fee back to Tri West. Unbelievable

    Congress responded to all the outcries from people disgusted by the mess at the VA and in sympathy with Vets. They assigned 10 billion of make believe money to this Choice program to quiet all their pissed off constituents. But there is NO WAY the bureaucratic monster that is the VA is going to feed its own destruction by designing and implementing a program that really works. This funny money will disappear almost as quickly as it can be printed ,on contractor fees, administrative concoctions and senior level bonuses. And the VA will continue to digest veterans all the while crowing that evidence is VETs did not really want private care options.

  36. I decided to use the Veterans Choice Program instead of using Tricare Standard for open heart surgery. It being a new program the cardiovascular office did not know of the program, but I was able to coordinate between the VA and the office in order for program acceptance. So far there have been minor problems such as not being contacted by the VA to let me know of the appointment approval. The VA said 7-10 business days, but it took 3 weeks to get the authorization and when I showed up for my appointment, the office had not received the authorization number, so a verbal over the phone authorization had to be given. The authorization covered a two month time period in the event the appointment had to be reschduled. During the appointment I was initially schduled for surgery on the 8th of July, but I reschduled my surgery to the 27th of July in order to give the VA plenty of time to receive the necessary refferals to have my surgery VA approved in a timely manor. This surgery is very important for me to have, so I don’t want any confusion when the day comes to be cut open. I will continue to stay on top of the VA and the cardiovasular office to make sure all goes well. So far so good.

  37. As a non military United States citizen and a legal guardian of my brother I write this piece. Before my brother was in the military he was a hurt and an emotionally harmed person who needed help.

    The military and Veterans Hospital have done nothing good for my brother or any of our family – nothing and I mean nothing. They have for the most part practiced tyranny towards our family, dismissed us as parents and brothers and sisters to claim my brother as their own and in every way stand in our way with their tyrannical acts so we can not protect him, but are forced to watch the greater part of the Veterans Administration kill him. Kill our brother is putting it mildly; more to the point they are using his vulnerabilities and those vulnerabilities of our family to murder him. This includes for the most part all Social Workers, Doctors and Fiduciaries within the Veterans Administration.

    This started off by describing my brother as absent without leave and sent the military police and I FBI out to search for my brother. Among other relatives homes they came to; they also came to our home. Where was my brother during all of this: In the Veterans Hospital. I guess this should have been a huge Red Flag for us to have nothing more to do with the Veterans Administration.

    The atrocities go on, and on over the years I have watched the military kill my brother by their use of tyrannical acts toward every member of our family, including the Veteran. They stop at no one. There are no acts they are not willing to stoop to; to further their own means and their furthering their own means is to force their will and might upon you as a lion upon a mouse. I have watched the Veterans Administration staff of Doctors; Social Workers; Fiduciaries; Patient Advocates behave heinously in front of and towards whomever they please to enforce their positions — right or wrong. I have seen the Veterans do nothing correct inside a Veteran Hospital — over thirty years of being familiar with their tactics I don’t have enough good ones to fill five fingers. All my information is through documented medical notes and acts perpetrated by the Veterans staff towards my brother, myself as legal guardian of my brother who I am guardian over.

    I have watched helplessly the Veterans Administrations Doctors, Social Worker, Fiduciaries, Patient Advocates as well as anyone who has come in contact with me or any of my brothers’ family who represents the Veterans Administration and so called welfare of their Veteran (they are not their Veteran – the person is a member of someones family. the Veterans say they know that, but their actions towards family members of veterans who come at odd with them show differently).

    Because I doctor homeopathically and naturally through Vitamin therapy and remedies, the VA has come at me as something or someone to destroy and kill. Although I have a bona fide Doctor of my own who has supported my brother very well and when under this doctors care my brother excels. My own brothers written concerns about anti- psychotic and psychotropic drugs are ignored by the Veterans Doctors, Social Workers, Fiduciaries, Patient Advocates and any other Veteran representatives.

    My brother’s VA Fiduciary ignored certified letters to her from me informing her of where my brother was so that she could pay his rent went ignored and not picked up until I wrote and complained — finally I had to file a complaint against this person with the Elder Abuse Hot line before I got this person to pay for my brother’s housing. I have letters from different Assisted Living Facilities complaining to me as to where was their money in two of the complaints the unpaid amount was $2000. One complaint was in a written letter one verbal, but I have others as well that are in written form as well as receipts from certified letters sent to her that laid in the post office ignored by this person.

    The Veterans dismissed my Mother as of no account and I am sorry to say used me against my own Mother. I should have never fallen for it, but I am sorry to say that I did. My mother’s care although not the best was far better than the Veteran’s have ever thought about doing.

    I have had attorney’s tell me that I have at the very least at least one law suit.

    I have had a Veterans Doctor refuse to acknowledge my brother’s allergies and side effects to medication yet – deliberately give it even when it is pointed out to them – saying to me I won’t stop giving it to him — he says he likes it. My brother is incompetent and deemed so on my guardianship papers.

    The Veterans Doctors tried to have my guardianship papers modified to suit their own means — probably to suit themselves to get me out of the way and be able to give my brother whatever drugs they wanted to irregardless of whether my brother suffered dangerous side effects from them and had allergies to them — that was not their concern. Very early on when I had only just become a legal guardian of my brother one of my Nursing Instructors said to me upon my telling her that I was a legal guardian — she said — you mean you still have it and they haven’t taken it away from you? That comment was surprising to me at the time, but I now see. They can’t perform as much damage if someone is watching.

    The Veterans removed my payeeship from me due to lies that were told about me from my brother who is a long time drug addict from the year of 13 years old to present. I am sure the Veterans is aware as I am that a drug addict will stop at nothing to get drugs. I never supported my brother’s drug use and this angered my brother and the Veterans fanned my brother’s anger towards me in their behalf and added to that their own lies and slander towards me. I have no good words towards Social Workers, Doctors, Fiduciaries, Patient Advocates or other representatives who work within the Veterans Administration except for only maybe three who I have come in contact with over a thirty year period.

    The Veterans representatives behave in a manner at least with my family of fighting the enemy. kill my brother, tear our family apart, destroy my guardianship, use a fiduciary that I have documented evidence did not pay willingly for my brother’s care and pretty much know she never saw him and allowed dangerous situations to persist with my brother (ignoring his welfare).

  38. I am a disabled veteran and apparently one of the few that has had excellent care from the VA. I’ve been forced to use Choice Care for the first time, to schedule an electromyogram for my right wrist/arm. I am scheduled for surgery on July 22, at 1000, and the surgeon needs it before the surgery. The closest VA facility, that is able to perform the test, is 250 miles away. The people at Veteran’s Choice are inept.

    I was notified by our local coordinator, that I qualified for Choice on June 29. I called on June 29 and, gave the operator my information. I realized then, that there was going to be a problem, because she didn’t know what an EMG was, she had no idea how to schedule it, or what doctor specialty was needed. I was told, to find a provider and call back with the information.

    I finally found a provider on July 6. I gave the operator the name, address, and phone number of a Choice provider. I reiterated that this had to be done, prior to my July 22 surgical date. I was told that I would hear something within 5 days. I called back on July 13. I was told that there was a record of my calling, but no information. The form that they have to fill out wasn’t filled out. So, for the third time, I went through the information. I (again), explained that I was scheduled for revision surgery on July 22, at 1000, and that the surgeon needed the results from the EMG, prior to surgery. I (once again), gave her the provider info. I was told that they would walk this to the department that does the scheduling, and that she would write it up for a supervisor. She said that someone would call me within 48 hours, with an appointment.

    Well, it’s been 48 hours. I called Choice once again. This time was told that I’m scheduled for the EMG on July 22, at 1000. It took me a moment to realize that they’ve mixed up my surgical date/time, for the EMG testing, therefore no one has called the provider, to schedule the test. I insisted on speaking to a supervisor. I got the exact same song and dance about “walking over the paperwork” to get the test scheduled. I asked her if I needed to schedule myself (since I’ve done all the work in the first place). I was told that they have to schedule the test. No one recorded the provider information that I gave to them twice before. This time, I made sure she knew how to write and that she had a pencil.

    Carolyn, the Supervisor, told me that that it takes 5 business days to schedule an appointment (like it was MY fault). I explained (for the 4th time) that they’ve had more than 5 business days, since I called on June 29 and July 6 with the info. She told me that I would hear back within an hour. Well, I just got the phone call and (this was a huge surprise), soonest I can be scheduled for the EMG is 5 days after my surgical date.

    The latest SNAFU? The idiots put on their form that I only wanted this particular provider. I told them every time I called that I didn’t care who did it, as long as it gone done. I told Michael (the person who is scheduling this appointment) that I didn’t care if they sent to McDonalds.

    Before Choice, the VA simply scheduled an appointment with a civilian provider, when my doctor requested it. I didn’t have to call anyone for approval, scheduling, etc. Since I’m one of the vets in this program, I have no choice but to use it.

    I think that the problems with the VA seem to be by location. I live in WV and my doctor at the community based clinic is excellent. The closest hospital is 86 miles away, and they don’t hesitate to schedule me with a civilian provider, if I need one. I’ve never had a problem with the Louis A. Johnson VA center and the Pittsburgh University VA is beyond excellent. However, the Veteran’s Choice Program stinks.

    If given a survey, I will opt OUT of the Choice Program. It won’t be because I want to travel, it will be because it’s too hard to use and a superfluous program. It’s outsourced. Outsourcing is used to pay back political favors, so that civilian contractors (read political contributors) make money.

    • I have had about the same experience with this choice program. VA had to do a referral and put me in this same loop. I was told to wait two weeks to be uploaded in the Choice system. I waited two weeks and two days and called on 16 JUL. The lady I talked to was pleasant and asked if I had a preferred provider (for a specialty service???), how far I was willing to travel, preferred time for the appointment, and a preferred day. I was told that it would take 5 days to schedule the appointment and that if I did not hear anything back from them to call at the end of the week (24 JUL). I patiently waited and then called on 27 JUL. Tisha stated that I needed approval and went down the same list of questions and stated that it would take 5 days. She stated that her records indicated that I had called so I asked her the name of the person that took down my information she gave me the name Rhonda Shulanda! I asked to speak to a supervisor and was transferred to Crystal J. Crystal proceeded to tell me that their system did not have a record of me previously calling. I was incensed at this stage and assured her that I would be forwarding this experience to Senator Dan Coats. I do not remember when I have experienced such incompetence. I believe that it is by design to ensure minimal care is provided. I have had mostly positive experiences with VA Ft. Wayne for my annual physical – the only care that I have required for the past six years of retirement.

      • UPDATE: After threatening the Supervisor at Choice, with the possibility of media publicity about my horrible experience with Choice, I was scheduled for the EMG the next day. In fact, the provider’s staff told me that the Choice rep that called them was in a panic. I’m glad to report that I had my surgery successfully at the VA University Pittsburgh last Tuesday, with to no help from Veteran’s Choice. I went to My Healthevet website and did their survey on Veterans Choice. I gave the agency a scathing review and in my comments at the end, told them that given the choice to opt out, I would opt out of Veterans Choice, because they can’t find their ass with both hands.

        BTW, the survey isn’t hidden in some obscure corner. You have to sign into my healthevet. It’s in the lower left side of the home page, after you sign in. It takes up ~ 25% of the page, so it’s quite visible.

        I know that there are problems in the VA, and what’s happened in a couple of places is criminal. The sequestration has caused problems with funding, but most of our representatives are not veterans. They’ve lived their privileged lives, while we’ve protected them. They have no idea what it’s like to literally give your life over to the US, knowing that you could be put into harms way at any moment.

        I’m convinced that Veteran’s Choice is just another superfluous agency, outsourced to the private sector so that a campaign donor can make money. It’s something that the administration and congress can point to, to claim that they’re trying to correct VA inadequacies, but it’s just another crap agency.

        The VA hospitals are swamped, as are the providers. They are in desperate need of expansion. IMO, the money used to outsource this ridiculous program should be funneled into expanding VA services and facilities. If government wants our armed forces to fight wars on several fronts, they’d better damn well be willing to pay for it way beyond the battle field.

  39. The Veterans Choice Program is not working. I am giving this to all of you first hand- President Oboma has had VA hiring freeze since he has been office, including no pay raise since he has been President last year out of all his year in office gave VA employees a total of 1%.There are not enough staff at the VA to care for Veterans due to the hiring freeze. Private doctors who have enrolled in caring for Veteran’s through Veteran’s Choice are not being paid, so they are now opting out to treat Veteran’s. Veterans who are seen by private doctors are Veterans are not getting the care they need, as they were getting through the VA. Veterans Choice may pay for an office visit to the doctor, if you need anymore then an office visit you have to pay out of your pocket! Government needs to be honest and tell you what is going on.

    • Recently, I got a questionaire survey asking me why I refused to use the Choice Care Program. Actually, I have two uses in progress right now. Somebody has terminal “head up their butt-itis” !

      • Could you tell me where the survey originated – the local VA or a national survey company and what were some of the questions? Thanks

      • Survey letter came from the VA’s Purchased Care office in Denver, CO. Had to go online at http://www.va.gov/purchasedcare and answer about 45 questions with an 8-digit “Unique Identifyer Code”. Letter was signed by Lori Amos whose office is in Atlanta, GA. Gave 1-855-283-7665 to call if no internet access available for paper copy to be sent.

      • Dan,
        If you go to the My HealtheVet site and click the blue log in button, when the page refreshes, on the lower left part of the page is a title “Are You a Choice Veteran?” and it is a survey by the VA about the “choice Card Program”. It is a third party survey. I have taken it and it asks several questions. You might want to take a look at it.
        f8f

      • Thanks for the tip f8f, I go in myhealthevet several times a month and never noticed it. It is cute the way they hid it in the corner. I think that is all part of the game. The VA will say, we posted it on myhelathevet, where x million of vets are registered and only received x replies which cannot be considered representative of the veteran population.. At least I gave them an ear full.

  40. I am so pissed off at the worthless joke the VA is playing on us Vets. My Va Dr wanted a procedure done and could not get me into the Va facility so after 30 days VA refereed me to Veterans choice. they approved and made the appointment. I had the procedure done. Now the assholes are not paying the bill. I have called them 3 months in a row, first two months they apologize and said it would get taken care of, they had the bill right in front of them. It still has not been paid. I get a final bill from my Dr saying it was going to collections so once again I called Veterans Choice. Now the ASSHOLES cannot even find the bill and no record of me having the procedure done.

    • I’m having the same problem with Veterans Choice. After they screwed up scheduling an appointment for a test that I needed (after I gave them the provider info 4 times), I’m getting phone calls about payment. Veterans Choice is the problem. I had no problems when the VA scheduled civilian appointments directly.

      Veterans “Choice” is a misnomer. I have no “choice about using this worthless outsourced POS. If I need something done locally, like PT, I’m forced to use this program. I have to have physical therapy now, and I don’t want to travel 90 miles to the nearest facility. Once again, I will be forced to use this “service”.

      I’ve talked to other vets who are having serious problems with Choice. While I’m sure that there are serious problems in the VA, especially with the continuous problems in the Middle East, I don’t blame the VA as much as I blame our do nothing Congress.

      Instead of subjecting Vets to sequestration cuts, I think the first monetary cuts should have been to Congressional salaries and benefits. Everyone of their sorry asses need to be fired.

      • In some respects I blame Congress for giving the VA $15 billion for this “Choice” program without proper oversight, but the majority of the blame has to fall on VA for what you are experiencing.
        The VA was given the money, and the program has been sloppy since it began. The VA has the money, so it should not be a problem with it getting paid. Choice has been used in the past, so what is the sudden problem with bills not being paid? According to a USA Today article from today, the VA has only spent $7.7 billion of that money over the past year. What is the problem then? When the VA did my service connected knee replacement surgery, they billed my insurance within days, then took 6 months to reimburse them when I called them on it.
        You can damn well bet I would be taking copies of medical bills not being paid by the VA to the media. If anyone threatened me with collections, I would have them put it in writing so I could take that to the media as well.
        This isn’t a congressional problem beyond a disgraceful lack of oversight. This is a typical, piss-poor VA management problem.

      • 91, when I used the choice program, I did not receive the card as I only had 45 days until my appointment. They stated they did not have time to get it to me. When I went to my appointment and the woman asked about who to put down as the person paying, I said I don’t know and I did not have a card to show. She wanted to put me down as the person to pay if the VA did not. I said “no way” and told her to put the VA as the person to pay. I told her that if she put me down then I would be getting bills and the VA would not want to pay for this. She agreed and put the VA down. I never received anything from the place I went to. Maybe that is something for other vets to look at. If you put yourself as the “other person” to pay if the VA does not then the VA will let you pay. I wonder if the vets who have had trouble with this worthless program have made themselves that person to pay.
        f8f

      • Please download the the Pdf about the Choice Care Act, and review pages 12-14. Page 14 describes how Health Net administers payment, and the process for providers.

        This is indeed, a problem with Veterans Choice, which is outsourced to Health Net Federal Services, which is a civilian agency, not the VA.

        https://www.hnfs.com › VeteransChoice

        Health Net Federal Services administers Veterans Choice, and is responsible for payment, per page 14.

  41. I had an appointment with the VA contracted eye doctor back in Nov. Two days before, I got a letter saying the appointment was canceled, and I would have to go through the choice program (I live in the same town as the VA, and the VA does not have any eye care department here). I called the choice program, but they could not do anything, since my local VA did not enter me into the choice program. I called the local VA, and got the standard we will get to it as fast as we can BS.

    Last friday (3 plus months), I got a letter from my local VA, saying they finally entered me into the choice program, and to call the 800 number to make an appointment. I called the choice 800 number, and they took all my info, and then said I should get a call from some one in the choice appointment department in the next 5 to 10 business days. All this, from a referral from my primary doc, back in May.

    Where is the concern for care?

    No VA, it is not that I want to use the VA over the choice program, its that I would rather have care from anywhere!

    The VA asked Congress to add the fee basis, and contract care programs to the choice program. I can’t imagine how anybody would think that adding several layers (the VA referral, the choice agent talking to me, and inputting my info in for the appointment team, and then the choice appointment agent making the appointment, and then forwarding my medical records to the doctor, and then the choice not paying the bill) would be more cost effective then having the VA contract with a local specialist.

  42. I currently drive from Knoxville to Johnson City in Tennessee, approximately 222 miles, for my care. I’ve been told by my dental provider there that they will absolutely NOT do referrals for the Choice Program. The major issue with this is that the dental office has been unable to correct the issue in a single or even two separate visits. This does not include the other primary care that I have been forced to drive 222 miles to receive all in the same many months.

    What is the point of having a program at all if the VA is allowed to pick and choose what and who they want to allow to use it?

    I’m truly confused on all of this. I thought the purpose of the Choice Program was to help veterans who could not get an appointment or were forced to travel over 40 miles for care. Perhaps I was mistaken or misinformed.. One would think that 222 miles would qualify.. but not in the Mountain Home VA Medical Center in Johnson City, Tennessee.

    I will end with this note.. I was told by the office at the Mountain Home VA Medical Center that if I had an issue with this to contact my patient advocate. Well, good luck to anyone who needs to get in touch with a patient advocate. I’ve been calling the numbers and extensions for the last 9 hours. No one picks up the phone. They all say to leave a message, call another extension, and they will get back to you. Yeah, well, I’ve left a message. No one has called me back yet, and now I can’t get through because it is after business hours.

    This is not to even mention that I was placed on the waiting list for eye care. That waiting list is 3 years 6 months long. Thank God the Knoxville VA Outpatient clinic allowed me to use Choice for that, but what they didn’t tell me was all of the whooohaaa that goes on with Choice. I waited two weeks for choice to get the referral from the VA. Then, Choice made the initial phone call to me to ask questions. Then, Choice sends the information off for approval. After that, Choice calls back with an appointment date. Did I tell you that this whole process takes about a month to get all the approvals? Well, if I didn’t, I did now. I’m still waiting for my eye appointment. By the time I actually get in to my scheduled appointment, I will have waited over 5 weeks.

    Here is another kicker.. I went in to see my primary doctor in Knoxville. I waited 3 months for that appointment, and that was an appointment for me calling in saying I was having chest pains. Thank God I am still alive, but 3 months later I go see my primary. Okay, so far, I’m still kicking. Then, my doctor says we need to schedule a stress test for your heart. I’m thinking.. okay.. at least we’ll see what’s going on. I get the appointment call.. over a month later, I get in for the stress test. Thank God it came back okay. Had something actually been going on, I would have been dead during that 4 month ordeal to get in to see my doctor for chest pains. Did I tell you that I couldn’t use Choice because they said that was my local doctor? So, what.. If I have a heart attack.. I just have to wait or pay the ER bill myself because I didn’t have the month long prior approval process from Choice and the VA.

    The Choice Program is a joke. The VA medical care is a joke. If this was a civilian operated system that serviced civilians, they would have lawsuits for this type of neglect.

    I’m fed up.. makes you wonder why even bother?

    • This is exactly what my best friend in the world is facing.

      She has been fighting with the VA to get quality of care for her crazy Hypertension and heart palpitations that has now moved to having kidney issues as well. Finally the VA provided her with the Veteran’s Choice option-after fighting for payment approval and numerous ER visits to her local hospital (she lives 95 miles from the closest VA) the doctors have located almost 8 months ago a tumor on her adrenal gland. This is called Pheocryocytomia and is life-threatening if not treated by removal and biopsy of the tumor.

      She was referred by her Choice Dr. to the Mayo clinic for testing and removal of said tumor that is there. The appointment was made and then came the call- Veteran’s-you know what I am talking about…the call that comes from the VA saying they are not willing to pay for this unless they can verify that the diagnosis from the Choice Dr. is accurate…and so the process of running all the same tests (again costly hundreds of thousands of dollars) and having additional repetitive Dr appointments at the VA (along with waiting almost a month or more for each one) with a total of 16 physicians (whom apparently do not read charts or communicate with one another) begins again.

      The next call comes from the Mayo clinic to let her know that her appointment has been canceled unless she can come up with $5000 to pay as a deposit for the extremely necessary visit. Does anyone really know a 100% disabled Veteran that just has an additional $5K laying around while on a fixed income to pay for healthcare that they very much already paid for by signing the dotted line?? I don’t think so.

      In the meantime, she has lost her parents and has only one sibling that currently serves and living halfway across the world. She was adopted and has an extended family that since her father passed away from brain cancer four years ago won’t barely acknowledge her, her 2 children (one actively serving and the other has served), her husband and my son and I as her support system. We don’t have the money to pay for the deposit and today-she was told that even though the tumor is there-in black and white from the Choice Dr’s MRI results-the VA can do nothing for her and she should try the route of Eastern Medicine to remedy her health problems.

      What the hell has happened to this country??? What the hell has happened to the health care programs through the VA??? Did I miss something???

      At what point did it become ok to NOT give the individuals who have fought with their lives-signed the dotted line-and sacrificed everything for our country–good healthcare and the very BEST that medicine has to offer???

      My own father is a retired Physician and a Veteran who is battling cancer and has specifically asked us to never bring him to the VA for care because he knows if we do he will die before they ever do anything for him. My brother is currently serving and I fear for him if he ever retires and needs any healthcare services from the VA.

      I am ASHAMED at such a disgrace of care and respect that the VA in Fargo, North Dakota feels is ok to give any Veterans that have signed with their lives (yes I will say it again-WITH THEIR LIVES) for the freedoms that these Doctors and myself wake up with every day!

  43. It took me 4 months to get a dermatology appointment. It was for removal of a cyst. When the doc said it would take that long to get an appointment, I jumped on it. I did not trust that choice card deal and thanks to you all, I will not be trying to use it in the future. I am in awe of all you war-time vets. I was peace-time and am very thankful to have the VA at all. Thanks, guys. You are the real heroes.

  44. It should be a crime to have the level of service received by veterans. I’ve been jumping through several hoops to have a biopsy done, that was an initial refferal from the Prescott, AZ VA ER (by the way, I received OUTSTANDING service from their team) initially I was referred to a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale who was on Tri-Wests referral sheet. Right up until scheduling, the doctor had committed to the procedure, only to find out his team was no longer taking Tri-West. Another referral was made to another Dr in the Phoenix area, Tri-West has continued to fumble through on their end and twisting the knife with a scripted “Thank you for your service” at the end of a single sided phone call. If you really want to thank a Vet for their service, do your job, commit to it the same way thousands of Vets committed to this country. I can only imagine what others are going through in more dire situations.

  45. Your Next story to look into!

    Some of the doctors I went to through the Choice Program will no longer see Veterans. They will see you if you have your own insurance. Why? The VA has not made payment or paying it’s bill to those doctors. So the big red tape cycle starts all over again and you wait and wait. Do you know I have been waiting to see an orthopedic for my knees start date 2014. If you like, I have a letter from one doctor stating this and was not accepting Veterans anymore through the choice program. How ever I do not want my name disclosed or email, fear of the VA Adm.

    A anonymous Veteran

  46. I know of myself who has been through the ringer the entire year of 2016 with Healthnet and the VA to have medical bills paid. At this point I have contacted many people. My bills still have yet to be paid but hopefully if we all stand together we may all find some relief. I am reaching out to hopefully help others out there who are also suffering. Below is some contacts I have acquired throughout the year AFTER my bills were sent to collections, and Healthnet had reprocessed my claims 3 times due to errors:
    I made a congressional complaint that really got my foot in the door! Write your congressman!
    Healthnet Veterans Choice Corporate Office 1-866-606-8198 or 1-800-291-6911
    Escalations with VA in Denver 1-877-881-7618
    I also just sent letters to the national headquarters of the VFW, Washington DC office VFW, Future VP Mike Pence, And Future President Donald Trump. Congress, President Obama, and the help of the VFW put this program into place so that is why I have escalated my concerns to them specifically. The healthnet contract is coming upon expiration, and they could potentially get the contract again. This is why I am doing everything I can to get this program out now! I know this may seem slightly overboard but I’m just hoping someone will hear me. If you have had the slightest taste of the hell I’ve been through you would understand my excessiveness. Best of luck to all my brothers and sisters out there!

  47. I wasted two months trying to even get an appointment contact from the Choice Program. I would much prefer politicians simply funding and expanding the Veterans Administration. I have received excellent care from the VA directly but they do not have the facilities, doctors, staff, and resources to meet demand.

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