The Veterans Choice Act was authorized by Congress to address the health care access issues faced by Veterans. The Act authorized a fund to operate for three years to provide Veterans who were enrolled as of August 1, 2014 or who were eligible to enroll as a recently discharged combat Veteran.
The Act would provide Veterans with a Veterans Choice Card. The program was designed to allow Veterans to obtain medical care from private physicians when the Veteran lives at least 40 miles from a VA health care facility OR if they face a wait of more than thirty (30) days for an appointment.
The Veterans Choice, Access and Accountability Act of 2014 was signed into law. Since its enactment, approximately 8.5 million veterans nationwide have received cards. Unfortunately, only 0.37 percent of the Veterans have been authorized access to private care.
Veterans from Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and other states are finding that the Veterans Affairs Department officials will not authorize treatment. Paul Walker of Minnesota who suffers with stage 4 liver cancer was denied treatment because he lives 20 miles from a VA clinic. However, that clinic only provides dental, vision and basic medical care.
In order to receive care from specialists, Veterans in Indiana must take a long bus ride into Chicago to get treatment. Like the case with Mr. Walker, there is a VA facility within 40 miles that offer no speciality care. Therefore, according to the VA, they are disqualified from the option of going to outside medical providers.
Members of congress are voicing similar concerns. At a House Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs hearing, VA Secretary Bob McDonald told members of Congress his department is looking into fixes. "We are currently exploring options to review the 40 mile provision of the Choice Act to get more veterans the care that they want," said McDonald.
While Washington debates, and the VA explores, Veterans all over the country agonize with no real choices for desperately needed medical care.