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Op-Ed: Take care of VA patients – make the Choice program work

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
October 19, 2017

Veterans were recently told that Congress had approved sufficient funds for the Choice program to see the VA through the year 2018. However, more recent statements on the internet say that the money set aside for the Choice program will be used up by the end of this year.

How can the estimates for the funding of such an important issue have been so far off the mark? Congress should walk away from their seemingly 24/7 schedule of discrediting the Trump Administration and tackle the Veterans’ Choice Program head on. This nation is charged with taking care of those who have “borne the battle,” but they seem too embroiled in “revenging” their loss in the recent Presidential election to take care of the business of running the country.

Providing quick and adequate health care to our veterans should be a fully supported, bipartisan effort in Congress. The will of the people demands quick attention and approval of bills regarding the Choice program.

Congress must first come up with accurate estimates for the funding required to sustain the Choice program not only through the year 2018, but for the “out years,” as well.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs must quickly create a solid bond of trust between themselves and the civilian medical community. The VA must screen civilian doctors and hospitals to ensure our veterans will receive proper medical care. Just as important is the requirement to establish a process within the VA that will allow for quick reimbursement for services provided by the civilian medical community. Claims for reimbursement should be paid ASAP, but certainly within a 60-day period, which should provide sufficient time for reimbursement claims to be verified and paid.

Failure to provide speedy reimbursement will surely “kill” the program. If civilian providers are not reimbursed quickly, they will simply cease to provide medical care through the Choice program.

VA must seek authorization enabling them to quickly fill existing vacancies in personnel strength and Congress must quickly approve VA budget requests that will provide for a smoothly running Choice program.

In view of the large number of VA patients who are eligible for the Choice program, perhaps the VA should seriously consider adding fully staffed eye/ear/dental departments at their satellite clinics.

Fixing all the problems that still exist in the management of the VA is, of course, a very high priority. But providing quick, adequate care to our VA patients should be on the front burners; both in Congress and in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

All opinion articles are the opinion of the author and not necessarily of American Military News. If you are interested in submitting an Op-Ed, please email [email protected].

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, the USS Missouri (BB-63), before returning to the mainland in Arkansas in 2015.