Op-Ed: Veteran: The VA’s ‘Veterans Choice Program’ Disaster
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By: Brooks Outland
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For several years now, the VA has been dallying with VA patients; promising proper care but not delivering it. It is obvious that VA is not presently capable of providing proper care for the ever growing number of Veterans needing that care!
Veterans were elated when the “Veterans Choice Program” was first put into motion. This program would allow for almost “no wait” appointments and would provide proper care quickly and at facilities much closer to the patients’ residence.
Actually, the Program has never really gotten “off the ground!” It has been an on-and-off program which has caused much confusion and emotional trauma for the patients. The VA is not capable of doing the job, but they don’t want to pay someone else to do it for them!
The Program would allow patients who live more than 40 miles away from a VA clinic/hospital to get appointments with a civilian doctor closer to their residences and the VA would pay the bill.
The VA seems hesitant to take on the task of finding civilian doctors who will accept the amount that the VA will pay for services rendered. Why not let the patients find a doctor and then let VA negotiate directly with those doctors as to the payment? Certain VA patients are eligible for reimbursement for travel expenses. This Program would decrease, considerably, the amount of travel reimbursement VA would have to pay.
I am a permanently disabled (100%) Veteran and I live 60-plus miles from the closest full service VA facility; The VA Medical Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. As a Councilman patient, I’m required to go to the VA Clinic or hospital for blood tests every 4 or 5 weeks for a coagulation level test. A 120-mile round trip, plus sitting around waiting for the test, causes me to endure a considerable amount of pain! As my injuries involve my spine, it takes several days to realize a reduction in the pain level incurred by the trip!
In my humble opinion, our Congress should quickly pass a bill which would permit the VA to implement the Veterans Choice Program at the earliest date and allow eligible patients to start using this sorely needed program.
Brooks Outland is a Korean and Vietnam war veteran. He volunteered to serve in Vietnam because he was keen to help the people of South Vietnam keep their freedom and their country from communist takeover by the North. After retiring Brooks and his wife spent eight years volunteering aboard his old battleship, USS Missouri (BB-63), before returning to the mainland in Arkansas in 2015.