Outrage Follows Veterans Choice Card Farce Exposure

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Benjamin KrauseOutrage has followed KARE 11’s outing of Veterans Affairs’ ridiculous and anti-veteran interpretation of Veterans Choice Card statutory law.

WATCH: KARE 11 Initial Veterans Choice Card Program Investigation

The law implements the 40-mile distance in a “as the crow flies” method versus actually using the driving distance to a VA facility. Further, the new law includes VA clinics that may be unable to provide the needed care.

For example, you may not be able to use the Veterans Choice Card program if you live within 40 miles in a straight line of a VA dental clinic even if you needed psychiatric care and the nearest VA facility for psychiatric care was 180 miles away.

“Tough luck for you,” is apparently what Secretary Robert McDonald thought. Sadly, the above restrictions resulted in most veterans interested in using the Veterans Choice Card program from using it. Meanwhile, VA cites the fact that few veterans use the program as proof that veterans only want VA health care. Secretary McDonald has now called to gut the program not even six months after the program became law.

Shame on these fakers for claiming to have disabled veterans’ interests at heart. This is clearly a propagandist spin to pump VA full of new money without VA doing what taxpayers want them to do with the new money they received.

Rep. Tim Walz is now pressing VA to rethink its interpretation of the 40 mile “straight line” measurement now that his state’s disabled veterans exposed known shortcomings of the program:

“The VA look to provide a greater degree of flexibility in interpreting the 40 mile provision of the Choice Act and take into account if the veteran can actually receive the care he or she needs at the particular VA medical facility.”

One issue I find disingenuous is Congressman Walz’s current response. Congress created legislative language that was vague enough to allow Secretary Robert McDonald to interpret the language in anti-veteran way. He owns part of the responsibility of this problem as do all members of Congress who benefited last election cycle from its quick passage just before elections.

It’s time for all of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, to pull their honorable heads out of their rear ends and stop giving deference to the Executive Office when it comes to veterans. It never works out the first couple decades around after passage of a new policy.

Source: http://www.kare11.com/media/cinematic/video/24750715/kare-11-investigates-vet-care-fallout/

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40 COMMENTS

  1. as I wrote in a prior comment they need to fire the whole lot of them and replace them with REAL veterans and/or their spouses.

  2. I *hardly think* THAT MANY attorney’s concentrated in Congress simply MISSED the rather “elastic language” that the Choice Program had written that allowed the VA to loosely interpret the mileage as they see fit and twisted….NO, I still think that was simply by design because they ALL thought they could divert even MORE CASH to their CASH COW called the VA.
    It would be like saying someone covered in honey around 20 large beehives is simply MISSED by all those bees…cannot convince ME this was simply a MISTAKE of LANGUAGE written in Bill that made it to being signed into Law!

    Maybe Congress were too busy undermining National Security compiling their letter to Iran at that time and could not be bothered by the plight of we Veterans? THAT seems more plausible for these self-absorbed, ultra-narcissistic politicians!

    Now watch, they will either take forever bickering over semantics to get this corrected, while they figure out how to divert BILLIONS to the VA in another Veteran Un-Friendly Way and just hope the Public *forgets*…we will have to stay on their asses because the so-called Veteran Service Officers and Groups NEVER HAD OUR BACK on this Veteran’s NO CHOICE Card affair…most of these dinosaur groups are entirely codependent on the VA and THAT is another huge problem for we Veterans…way too many ‘foxes guarding henhouse’.

    I want to see a follow-up story where this Veteran receives the cancer treatment he deserves…not Sloan Gibson blowing hot air up the press’s dresses. His address to press was NOT very impressive nor seemed very genuine…as they seem to still think the VA will do the right thing…NOT! Those officials in video behind him have more of a look on faces as if they got caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar. They did!

    • namnibor-I am NOT going to hold my breath on this serious problem getting resolved and fixed anytime soon. Veterans do not have the money to buy justice.

      • The govt. knows that if they can weather the media storm for a short time, say the things that the public wants to hear, then the public thinks that the govt. is going to handle whatever the problem is and they put it out of their mind. Then when something else comes along, this is forgotten and the VA goes back to business as usual. That is why we need to somehow keep this fresh in the minds of those who will get tired of how we are being treated and start demanding change.

    • I agree Congress are weasels on this, and they can easily fix this, the question is, why don’t they? Is it because it was designed to fail and fixing it would result in not being able to use the money elsewhere?
      Again, veterans are treated with a double standard. If it is good enough to pay VA employees actual mileage to travel to BS conferences according to the Federal Travel Record, then it should be the same for vets. If Congress EVER floated the idea of reimbursing travel for these hacks using straight line mileage there would be a massive uproar. Actual mileage should be used for determining Choice, or an appointment beyond 30 days, as they originally told veterans and the public.
      That guy with cancer should have his family members take him to the nearest Congressman’s office with the media and demand to know why his Choice is to die.
      While on camera, he can ask why the VFW, DAV and Legion aren’t doing a damn thing to fix this mess.

      • Why – because the VA , the government , traditional veterans groups dont want any privatization of the VA period . The only ones who do is Concerned Vetrans of America and its why they are trampled on bib the traditional veterans groups who are in bed with the VA You need to be allied with Concerned Veterans of America if you want privatization without strings !!Also your national council state councils on independent living as well as your local centers for independent living for people with disabilities who support advocacy for disabled veterans Join them

        Lee Horowitz MED CAGS
        [email protected]

  3. It does appear that the news media (print, on air, and other types) are helping some. Things are being noticed and maybe the public is starting to notice that the VA’s problem is worse than the waitlist problem. We have been complaining almost every day about how bad things are and maybe this will help us. I find it interesting that the law states a vague 40 mile distance and the VA, in all their attempts to give us their “world class quality care” helped us by deciding that we are so great that we can literally fly. Maybe the VA is using us as guinea pigs for trying to make humans fly and therefore the straight line 40 mile rule would work. I wouldn’t put it past them to try such a thing. They experiment on us now in any way they want so why not try to do this. We are expendable (in their eyes) so we are perfect for this.
    If things like this can continue to appear in the news at a constant rate, then maybe the general public will start to see what we are dealing with and they will help us demand a complete overhaul of the VA. Someday maybe things will change.

  4. Even the retired Generals and Admirals that keep getting appointed to panels and boards to review these injustices that willfully kill sick veterans are sell outs over a pay check when they get in most cases 8-10K /mo in retirement. I have never seen so many YES men who continue to screw veterans like when I was on Active duty and they screwed Servicemembers. We need actual veterans because the bureaucrats don’t care about us or the retired Generals who keep supporting a bad and broken system.

  5. what i think,, i think it was set up to fail,,,from the get go,,,if we get better care out side the system it might just put an end to the v.a. maybe they job scared,, that may lose there hig paying job,s and great retirement

  6. They are doing it here in GA too this as the crow flyer junk. My nearest clinic in 45.7 miles driving on mountain road, the only road. And they told me I was only 32 miles away. I told the lady you are a liar and your supervisors are liars. This is a small 5 doctor clinic. I haveThoracic Abdominal Anorism on my Aorta. If it blows I have about 1.5 minutes to death. I figure that’s what they are waiting for. They are at least 5-8 vascular doctors on the way to the VA in Atlanta about 100 miles away driving. This is the only place vascular doctors in the system. The only good aspect is they are Emory Hospital doctors working part time at the VA. At least I know I will be on a better table to die when they decide to take me apart and put me back together for 10 hours. Ben this needs to go national or at least to congress cause its all lies Thousands of Vets are being denied and believe me their preference is not to go to the VA many many miles away. The only reason no one is participating in the program is cause of the denials on the restrictions. Tell them to use Microsoft Streets and Trips for mileage. Oh and I was told that if you don’t qualify for miles then 30 days was not a qualifier. My appointment were 41 days out. And again I told the VA you lying and really are not qualified to answer a phone if your going to lie and not know what your talking about. Thank you for what you do Ben

  7. I have sometimes driven from my house in Rockford to the VAMC in Madison ( some 80 miles via Interstate 90) But when they reimburse me for the mileage, I was only reimbursed for 60 miles. Now I understand why. I never knew they only pay for straight line miles.

    • City limit to city limit. Don’t like it, have to live with it. VA uses whatever is most advantageous to them.

      • The “Straight Line” method used to pay eligible veterans for the reimbursement of mileage to and from medical appointments has been used by the VA for the last several months (possibly up to a year now). The first time I encountered it, it was explained to me by a VA employee working in the travel department this way;

        we have a new travel reimbursement policy that assumes that you can fly a plane use a boat or submarine if applicable. Your mileage reimbursement is calculated “as the crow fly’s,” it is not my decision and if you have a complaint, here is the form to use.

        This VA travel employee crafted a very appropriate explanation that he freely offered before any of us veterans had a chance to object; very smart on his part.

  8. I reported all of this months ago to my congressmen’s office Joe Pitts -R-PA who did nothing although he is a Vietnam veteran . He doesn’t even have on any of his staff a veteran or disabled veteran What does that tell you HE wont even investigate the VAMC in Philadelphia or do anything about VA OIG corruption and coverup over VAMC Philadelphia where many veterans are forced to go from VAMC Lebanon and Coatesville as well as clinics in Reading or Wyommising Pa over 50 miles away from veterans homes.

    It also with choice since our congress allowed such is that it can take 30-90+ days beyond to get approval of Choice What does that say for a veteran since their is no set time or regulations how long it must take for Choice approval Then one also has the problem that many doctors wont take Choice since the VA doesn’t pay them for months

    The facts are the Choice Program was purposely formed to fail .
    The traditional VA groups except Concerned Veterans of America sold veterans down the drain as they do not want any type of privatization as a weakened VA would mean less money, less financial support, employees laid off. less members, and less power over veterans or to pretend they represent our “best interests” Tha facet are not just congress but traditional veterans groups knew and allowed all these regulations and strings in the legislation so the program could not be utilized and thus thwart private care

    Ben ,stop supporting traditional veterans groups and face facts They have a co dependent-symbotic relationship to support the VA as is with changes from the inside which has not worked in 60 years

    Tell us Ben since you support traditional veterans groups when the last time these groups ever had national demonstrations or marches in washington DC against the VA ??!!! Yet Ben its now the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and still us veterans are paying with our lives and disability at the hands of corrupt, negligent , malpractice, coverup, intimidation organization the VA

    Please answer Ben for all of us??

    Lee Horowitz, M.Ed, CAGS
    US Navy – disabled Vietnam Era Veteran
    Veterans Advocate/ Veterans Civil Rights Advocate
    [email protected]

    • Lee, what are you talking about regarding me supporting traditional groups? I don’t play the black and white game and am an independent voter and independent veterans advocate. If a political party does something good, I support it. If they do something bad, I come out against it. I do the same with veteran organizations. Period.

      Whatever it is that you seem to think I do is certainly not congruent with what I actually am doing. If I were a true blue supporter of a traditional vet org I would likely have pictures of me wearing those funny looking hats – and I have never worn those funny looking hats. That’s all I have to say about that.

      • Ben, simply confront DAV as to why they have yet to even answer you regarding their invalid survey versus Concerned Vetrans of America outside survey Why have they not answered you Sounds like the VA to me

        Lee Horowitz, M.Ed, CAGS
        [email protected]

      • LOL!!!
        Yes, those are ALL really, REALLY “bad hats”, and would not want to be seen wearing such things either.
        I even doubt Lady Gaga would even wear one of those hats! LOL!
        What’s up with these groups and their “uniforms”? The Shriners look like they all should have leashes on them like a pet monkey or something! LOL!

      • I did confront DAV directly about their position on the program. However, I have not had time to write about it because other matters were more pressing such as directly helping Paul Walker, who is the subject of these news pieces.

      • Lee you are on point regarding these supposed to be helping veterans organizations like DAV and VFW, claim to help veterans but do the really veterans??????Hell no because the DAV give a veteran appointment and conducts the interview and after the interview they give a bunch of papers to fill out including the statement of claim form. If I’m a veteran not knowing the system or how to fill out paperwork, why would I fill out my own paperwork with a possibility of getting my claim denied because the paperwork is incorrect.

        I needed the DAV before I became 100% and they turned their back on me because I couldn’t afford the membership, so in my opinion they are only in it for the money since they are truly a state agency…Somebody
        gotta make the money why not off the backs of our brothers in arms???????

        Also does the DAV really have any power other than checking the status of the claim same as the veteran would???? I give the DAV credit, they will accept your money but will they really help you????

      • As far as the hats and the DAV….I was always scared of these organizations because of their hats. I remember when I first went to a parade in NYC when I was 3 years old (I’m 167+ years old now, or feel like it when I hear the word VA)) they scared the living hell out of me. I didn’t know who they were or what they stood for, and guess what? I still don’t know what they stand for! They are such a stange lot! I’d rather be around drunk’in circus clowns than those weirdos.
        The DAV is crappy to their own volunteers, as witnessed by me the other day. I’m in a situation where I needed a ride to the VA clinic, which is backlogged for months to get one hit or miss, and the volunteer that drove me showed up in his own brand new Toyota Highlander to take me there. He told me he was never in the military in his life, but he wants to help those that were because of that. He also does volunteer work for the USO too. I asked him if he even got reimbursed for the gas milage expense by the DAV, and he told me no! My mouth was open in shock! I told him he was the best person I ever met, and there should be a news feature interviewing him on nationwide TV. I think that would be very effective to the public awarenness of how bad and poorly run this “clump of bullshit organizations” are.
        He wanted to know what veterans thought about the VA out of his own curiosity, and I was more than happy to tell him what’s coming down. Talked about Bob McDonald alot too. There is no more “I think this or I think that” folks. It couldn’t be clearer if neon sighs were nailed to the sky that we are dealing with the most corrupt bundle of government beurocracies and quasi-gov organizations that ever existed. Period. No “I think”. This has to come to a head soon. And I feel it will in a very bad way….scarier than grown men wearing hats with bullshit trinkets on them
        So you think you will get a true answer as to their position on Choice? Let’s use the Choice failure to launch a really big united effort by all of us. It’s the only hope we have. Let’s speak out loudly and boldly!
        We AIN”T GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE, as my church lyrics go.

  9. Ben, Thanks for helping Paul Walker and bringing attention to the fact that Congress has allotted millions of dollars so that veterans like Mr. Walker can get care close to home. Let us know how this case unfolds and what readers can do to help.

  10. Congress wrote the law this way specifically to get a passable CBO score. They engineered it, not VA. HVAC Chairman Jeff Miller stated this at a hearing, once again, just over two weeks ago. It is not VA’s interpretation, but the way the law is written. See this Stars & Stripes article:

    “Miller conceded that point, telling colleagues that without restraints, the Act would have cost $50 billion over three years, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office. Miller and colleagues wanted the Choice Card, a high-profile solution to the patient wait-time scandal, kept to a more ‘manageable number’ of $10 billion. CBO calculated it could be, if the 40-mile rule were tightened as prescribed during the three-year pilot program.

    ‘So it’s the way we had to write it to stay under the $10 billion,’ Miller explained.”

    http://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/isakson-vows-to-ease-40-mile-limit-on-va-choice-card-1.332844

    I know everyone is eager to blame VA for this, but it stems from Congress. And this time, Congress has actually accepted the blame.

    It’s not an interpretation. It’s the law, as it’s written.

  11. I was sent the choice card but haven’t even bothered to try to use it as I’m approximately 25 miles from a CBOC I don’t use. Essentially, the program is useless.

    My choice card need mainly arises from a service connected back condition. The problem comes in when my back goes completely out, I’m unable to drive the 130 miles to the Tomah VA, and it’s impossible to go to the CBOC as a short term appointment. Walk-in doesn’t exist at either the Tomah VA or the Wausau CBOC. I’ve tried the Urgent Care Clinic at Tomah and was outright scolded by the Urgent Care staff for going to them after another Tomah staff referred me to them over the phone.

    What finally ended up working was a 1 year fee basis approval to a back specialist nearby. That won’t resolve any other unforeseen issues should I come down with a bad case of the flu or something along that line. There is no option to approval for a walk-in clinic and if I call the VA triage, they will tell me to go to the local ER. Then they decline payment because the visit isn’t life threatening. What I’ve found I have to do instead is go to a local walk-in private clinic who charges $54 which I have to pay for up front.

    I don’t think the VA system is geared on any level for walk-in needs of immediate issues. It’s a frustrating dilemma to have to work around — especially as a 100 percent rated veteran.

    The Choice Card program is a big disappointment. McDonald might as well confiscate the program funds due the mileage restrictions being applied. The program is a failure.

  12. Veterans Choice card is a joke. They approved me for wait times, but not for distance. Mind you, I have a Va clinic in town with limited services. But they count that as a VA place of care. My next VA clinic that has more services is an hour or more away. And the closest VAMC is over 2 hours away. So, when I called the card to be seen outside, they said I’m only approved for wait time, regardless that I live over an hour away from the clinic that provides that care. However, I just received in the mail the other day an appt that is over 30 days out. So, I’m approved. But I need to wait 7 days to call the choice card so it reflects in their system. And if it’s anything like the last time I called them…they are clueless. Add to this, most outside provides do not accept or have knowledge of this card and therefore say they don’t take it. Mr. McDonald, this is why all the money poured I to this is not working, and why a very small % of vets are using the choice card. Problem solved. I find that fee based is faster and easier to obtain.

  13. Hey! Thanks! Thanks to all my friends who came to their senses and to my rescue for giving me back money you took away from me while I was on Administrative Leave from my director’s job. I also want my job back. It’s totally unfair you asked me to leave just because of stupid tickets to Disneyland. I swear to God, it was a business trip to convince the Disney Co. to help our customer service to veterans.

    http://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/va-ordered-to-repay-bonus-to-phoenix-va-director-1.334460

  14. Ha, Ha, Ha. I received this stupid card and it’s a joke. I live in the Philippines and am almost 1,000 miles from the nearest VA. Here, the VA will treat you only for service connected injuries. I showed them the letter I received from VA stating that since I was l00% over 10 years, anything wrong with me was considered service connected. They informed me that doesn’t count at THIS VA. Hmmmmm. Since when is there a difference in VAMC’s?

  15. What a BS card. I received one recently and live in the Philippines, almost 1,000 miles from the nearest VA Clinic. I showed them a letter that stated that since I’ve been 100% over 10 years anything wrong with me is considered service connected. They will only treat you for service connected injuries here. They informed me they wouldn’t honor the letter, only what is considered service connected. Now I have to apply for service connection on everything. Example; have service connection for Hep C from blood transfusion when GSW, WIA. As disease progresses, now have cirrosis which is expected but had to apply for service connection, next is liver cancer and if I don’t get rid of this disease will have to re apply for service connection. And they wonder why the system is clogged up???

  16. The Veterans Choice Program was never meant to succeed. If you think about it, why would the VA want to send “customers” outside the system. It would be effectively shooting itself in the foot. It was meant to put lipstick on a pig. If the people (citizens) and the government truly respected Veterans and the sacrifices we have made, our choices of where to receive health care would and should also be respected. The fact is, our choice and our sacrifices are not respected. The VA officials and the politicians give the issue wonderful lip service, but then again, lip service doesn’t cost much.
    The VA Secretary could solve the VA Health Care System problems in a heart beat. Ask Congress to approve any and all health care for Veterans, any where they choose to get it. That would be respect.

  17. I tried this horrible program and now i will travel 110 miles to a VAMC. I will get travel pay and waste even more taxpayer money. This program is mismanaged and there is a problem at every step. After 3 phone calls and 90 minutes on the phone, they are so incompetent that a simple scheduling of an appointment is beyond their scope of ability.

  18. I have been approved for dermatologist and pain management. theres only one problem, NO Doctors within at least 110 miles will take the veterans Choice card!

  19. Just tried to call vets choice. I was told to call back in 4 hours. Hardly could understand what the person was saying! Must be nice to have a guaranteed gubmint job and get paid for not doing it!

  20. tried the past 2 weeks to get qualified with vets choice. I wasn’t qualified because they only had a PO box for my address even though the VA has had my physical address for 15 years! Had the card for over a year. There’s definitely an IT disconnect between the VA and Vets choice. VA couldn’t properly up load my medical record to Vets choice. What we have here is a serious lack of communication! sound familiar? I wonder how many Washington crony’s are profiteering on this operation? The VA people are purposfully draggin their feet to make Vets Choice look bad so they won’t lose their jobs.

    • people dont give a shit….go on welfare and get great medial care!! have skin cancer and it took9 months to find out I have to have MOs surgery but could hae ben fixed y freezing 9 months ago!

  21. Mr. Krause, firstly I’d like to say thank you for a very informative blog and the help you provide to us veterans! I have only one question, the V.A. destroyed my credit in 2006 after the performed surgery on a service-connected injury, it took the VA over a year to get to my claim and increase my percentage from 40% to 100% while I was convalescing.l am currently rated at 80% and paid at the rate of 100% for unemployability. I didn’t have much savings and went through it quickly. Obviously I could no longer pay any of my obligations and it completely destroyed my credit, I had to file bankruptcy a couple of years later to start rebuilding my credit. Is it possible to add a comprehensive statement to my credit reports indicating that the VA was responsible for my bankruptcy? At this point any potential creditor is only aware that I filed for a chapter 7 bankruptcy and nothing of the reason why. Maybe if they knew why and who caused it they would be a little more likely to grant me credit.
    Thank you in advance for your response.
    Sgt. Bustamante
    Medically Retired

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