VA expands Choice Program eligibility, effective immediately

VA will now determine eligibility using driving distance


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In order to expand eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program, VA today announced that it will determine eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program based on the distance between a Veteran’s place of residence and the nearest VA medical facility using driving distance rather than straight-line distance. This change has been published in the Federal Register and is effective immediately.

“VA is pleased to announce the distance calculation change from straight-line to driving distance for the Veterans Choice Program,” said Secretary Robert McDonald. “This update to the program will allow more Veterans to access care when and where they want it. We look forward to continued dialogue with Veterans and our partners to help us ensure continued improvements for Veterans’ to access care.”

The change from straight-line to driving distance roughly doubles the number of eligible Veterans. Letters are being sent to the newly eligible Veterans to let them know they are now eligible for the Veterans Choice Program under this expansion. If a Veteran does not remember receiving a Veterans Choice Card or has other questions about the Choice Program, they can call (866) 606-8198.

Effective immediately, VA is also changing the mileage calculation for beneficiary travel. The change will ensure consistency in VA’s mileage calculations across the two programs. The beneficiary travel calculation will now be made using the fastest route instead of the shortest route.

For more details about the department’s progress and related information, see www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/factsheets_and_details.asp.

 

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Comments

  1. James D Hawkins    

    Please re-consider to also make the availability ruling based on the “Closest VA Facility with the required services” not just any VA facility.

  2. Jeff Jones    

    VETERANS CHOICE IS NO CHOICE AT ALL!
    I needed an optometry appt. Asked my primary care physician for a referral and he put it in the system.
    Got a call a few days later from TriWest Healthcare Alliance on behalf of VA. They left a message to call them to schedule an appt. It was a recorded call. A live person DID NOT call.
    I called, on hold for nearly 15 minutes and hung up.
    I called again, waited quite a long time, and finally spoke with a rep. She verified my name, last four, address, and then asked when I would be available for an appt. She then told me that she would forward my info for scheduling and they would contact me with an appt. I could not choose the Dr. beforehand. I could not choose the appt date and time.

    WHAT?

    TRI WEST CALLED ME, TO TELL ME TO CALL THEM, SO THEY COULD CALL ME.

    HOW STUPID IS THAT?

    I called my optometry clinic at VA, they sent me to “Non-Care VA” office. Person there told me that all my appts were being scheduled through TriWest. I told her I wanted to be seen by VA, and she “noted” my record that I wanted to be seen “in-house”. Optometry called me an hour later and we scheduled an apt 2 weeks out.

    I DID NOT sign up for VA Choice. The VA did this on their own. It made getting appts worse. FOUR phone calls, at least 30 minutes on the phone, and NO APPT.

    The question: IS ANYONE LISTENING to this?

  3. John E. Aguilar    

    These following messages are so strange that since the beginning of enlisted men and woman in the US MILITARY GOVERNMENT SERVICE, may locate service records the excuse that was given to me, was the U.S. Army used written records mine could mot be located for periods from August 18, 1971 August 12 1974 records medical and enlisted records were not kept! Are you kidding me!
    This was the responses the VA gave me, when I was in the medical hospital at Fort Ord, medical hospital. I suffered spinal meningitis for over a more than a week I continued suffering problems with my back and I continued having issues with high fevers due to the following medical record but the VA claims says that I had no corresponding medical issues due to the VA did/did not locate written records of my recycled records but yet can locate records from soldiers from WWI-WWII KOREA, VIET NAM AND other conflicts but mine were never found, how convenient it sounds to me.
    I was in the hospital after my restriction was lifted in boot camp and admitted to the hospital at ft. Ord, Ca 1971 and while I was seen by a MD was I was informed by a doctor a 2nd LT., We did not catch the spinal meningitis but you were lucky we caught it at the time as you will continue to have issues with your problem, thus problems with fevers and headaches, and other symptoms you will have during your MILITARY life and after you ETS and after your career.

  4. Mike O.    

    I was excited to hear about this program, until i was told that NO doctors accepted the Choice Card’s insurance as payment. One called and said they would bill my Medicare. I was pretty upset to know this program is nothing less than a scandal of epic proportions!. I am 100% SC and can get this treated at the VA for free, if the wait wasn’t so long and the drive wasn’t so far. (am am still waiting for the reimbursement of travel pay from my last 360 mile appointment. Filled out travel pay forms twice and it’s been about a month.) There are many hundreds of doctors in my area, and over a hundred are Ortho too.

    The VA is trying to cut their costs by changing travel pay methods, which DIRECTLY impact the veterans. They need the money to pay for the trip they take on THAT day, not a month later. This makes veterans choose NOT to seek medical care. It is a direct threat to the health of veterans nation wide. You can bet the administrators at these facilities are still getting their bonuses, maybe even more since there are fewer appointments being made and that means less no-shows and a higher percentage of visits being fulfilled. It may look good on paper, but it is bogus and doesn’t accurately reflect what is really going on in the VA healthcare system.

    We need to sue there pants off and the legislators involved in this atrocity as well. In short, they are trying to kill us in order to save money and increase their bonuses!

  5. Anthony Wayne Field    

    PLEASE don’t count a VA clinic which cannot examine or treat a problem with which we need help.
    Also my VA PCP always tells me to see an outside doctor (at my expense) because I “won’t be able to get an appointment with VA (60 miles away) for at least 3 months”. She cuts off all my prescriptions, telling me to get a prescription, and reason I need it, from an outside doctor. After that she says I need to continue getting them from an outside doctor because it originated from an outside doctor. I’m not able to get another PCP. She has never diagnosed anything or written me a prescription.
    VA medical care was once wonderful!!! Today it really stinks!!! I’m a 100% disabled WWII veteran, but my choice card is worthless.
    Yesterday’s local paper tells of a VAMC fining employees $20,000 for passing VA info to outsiders. What a coverup, but only 3 VA employees fired nationwide!!!!

  6. Nancy Bauer    

    I live in Beaufort South Carolina, I have a choice card but an being denied treatment for my service connected disability while they are approving treatment with the choice card for my fibromyalgia/arthritus — go figure

  7. Craig Daley    

    Its hard to believe how different all this is. I was just in France and broke my ankle and didn’t have to pay a dime! thats how it should be here aswell

  8. BERNARD J PINKIEWICZ    

    I am sure the VA’S intention is good,but newer facilities&or clinics lack more extensive tests&procedures,etc.&the distance from my other facility which is a hospital&not clinic is about the same distance. My sincere feelings is that we should have a “real”choice&be able to use primary doctors&hospitals outside of the VA that we are comfortable with&have been using,but due to limited health plans &funds use the VA!

  9. Norman Beck    

    My VA hospital in Charleston is the best.Their service is very good. My visits to the Goose Creek clinis is outstanding. THANKS TO ALL WHO CARE!!!!!!!!!

    1. Nancy Bauer    

      Do we go to the same VA Hospital Ralph A. Johnson? I am not trying to be a smart butt, I do not see how they are so great I can not even get my service connected disability treated can’t be that great!

      Just sayin

      I have a pain scale of 10, can’t lean back in a chair much less a car seat, but they refused me treatment for service connected disability.
      Just sayin

      1. DannyG    

        Thanks for the GOOD comment! More good news is needed! We need to band together & try to find some good in the ONLY gov’t entity that bears our name – the VETERANS Administration. God bless our troops, God bless our veterans, and PLEASE, Dear God,, bless America! I will say a special prayer today for Secretary McDonald & the employees of the VETERANS Administration.

    2. Daniel E Buchheit    

      My husband was approved for local physical therapy because the only va treatment facility was over 50 miles, however his ortho dr had to send orders in to get it approved. Has been in it for about 4 months and now they have expended it again. I think, I could be wrong, that the order has to come from the treating physician. We do have a local clinic, they didn’t offer the service. You may be able to check with them. So sorry for what you are going through.

  10. Donavon Prom    

    The Veterans Choice Program seems to be more of a PR Rizal Dassel to keep the higher ups (Congress, Senate & the President) off the backs of those overseeing the Veterans Administration and to fool the Veterans and others outside of the VA into thinking that the VA has changed, which doesn’t seem to be the case.

    In January 2015, I received a letter from the Veterans Administration stating at I lived beyond 40 miles from a clinic and that I could receive Veterans Choice Services at a civilian facility closer to my home. I called the phone number (1-866-606-9198) and was told that I qualified to have my eyes examined in the Centralia/Chehalis area, but I should call back after the 16 of February 2015. On 26 February 2015, I called back and was told by a programmed person, that there was a clinic in Chehalis, WA which was within 40 miles and therefore I did not qualify. I tried to explain that the Chehalis Clinic did not provide optometry services but the programmed person told me again that I could not get my eyes examined because the clinic was within 40 miles, even though it did not provide optometry services. Now I wouldn’t mind giving up half of a day going to the American Lake VA Facility, except I have Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) and can only walk about 2 blocks before the pain in my legs make it impossible for me to walk until I have rested for 10 minutes or more. Well, the distance from the parking lot is always 100% full, which means that I have to park on the far side of the lot which adds another 2 to 4 blocks to walk and then it is about 6 or 7 blocks to the optometry clinic. Therefore, it takes me about 60 minutes or more to walk from my parked car to the optometry clinic not to mention the pain I have to go through.

    Well, if American Lake VA facility is 50 miles away and our local VA clinic is within 40 miles, but does not provide the services (optometry services), shouldn’t a person be qualified for the Veterans Choice Program?

  11. Mike    

    This program is useless. I live 75 miles from the closest VA Hospital but only 25 away from a clinic which doesn’t do a hell of a lot for you. Do away with the clinic distance requirement and use only the hospitals, my god, those clinics really suck!!! My Mental Health Dr. retired at the Rutherford VA CLINIC a year ago. I don’t even have a dr. I called them yesterday and the MH Nurse told me that I had fallen through the cracks…wtf??? I suffer from anxiety and severe recurrent depression and ptsd. The clinic told me I had a nurse at the VA in Asheville, NC and that my next app. will be by teleconference! 🙁 I believe a mental patient should have personal contact with their Dr. This Veterans choice program really, really, sucks!!!!!!!!

  12. James M. Helton    

    I live close to a VA Clinic and therefore keep getting told ‘NO’ as far as receiving care under the Choice program. The only services I have received at the clinic are blood draws, base lines (Chest X-ray, EKG) physicals and tele-conferencing ref: Warfarin levels.. Everything else (Neck surgery, Stress Echo, back work in the form of nerve blocks, and MRI’s) I have ever had I have had to travel +/- 80 miles to Indianapolis.

    The last MRI was scheduled out 45 days and they told me I couldn’t get it done any quicker locally. I went into town the next day and was going by a local MRI provider and stopped in and ask if they did work for the VA and how quickly I could get the MRI on my neck and back. They replied that if I had the signed authorization with me they could do it right then or if not they would guarantee next day service once they had the authorization in hand.

    I am thinking the program leaves a whole lot to be desired….

  13. meril.johnson,jr    

    WHY, IS THE ,VA PLAYIG GAMES,,, WITH, VETS,,,, STOP, GIVING, OUR MONEY, TO, OTHERES ,, COUNTRYS,,,,,, GET OBAMA,,, OUT OF OFFFFFIC

  14. Hope E Ransom    

    In response to Terry Yetzbacher: I too suffer from severe chronic pain from multiple medical problems. The VA paid for my non-VA neurologist (who also does my pain management) since 2005. This past October they said they wanted me to be evaluated by a VA pain management doctor. After an electronic evaluation, I was referred back to non-Va care, but when I went to fill my pain med prescription they denied it. This is a medication that could harm me greatly if I stopped it suddenly, yet that is exactly what the VA did.
    I could not get a straight answer, and after multiple phone calls…my calls were not returned. Queries to the patient advocate resulted in insults. Frustrated, I spoke with a clerk from non-VA care. He said I had to see a VA pain management doctor. I scheduled an appointment and was seen 2 days later ( due to a cancellation, otherwise I would not have been seen for months.) The pain management doctor had no idea why I was there. I explained the situation and finally I got an answer. The doctor said: The VA, Nationwide, in collaboration with the DEA , will no longer prescribe narcotic pain medication to any veteran with Non-Malignant pain,…..regardless of your legitimate pain. They simply neglected to tell veterans this.

    In regards to the Veterans Choice Program : If your scheduled VA appointment is greater than a 30 day wait, you are eligible. When the appointment is scheduled, and it is greater than a 30 day wait you MUST request the Choice Program if the scheduler doesn’t offer it. I hope this helps!

  15. Hermon    

    Just another program that was pushed and approved by the Congress to get your vote. It sounded good at the time, but it was not well thought out. Basically a knee jerk reaction. Here at the Las Vegas VA, we have people coming in from St. George to get treatment. The kicker is that the VA Clinic is controlled by the VA in Salt Lake City, so even though the veteran might live across the street from the St George VA Clinic. If he/she is not with the Salt Lake City VA, they won’t see them. A good example of that is with Audiology. There is a VA Audiologist at the St. George VA Clinic. We have many veterans that have to come to our Audiology Clinic to get their Audiology needs taken care of. So because they are not enrolled with the Salt Lake City VA, they come to our facility. Because they are farther than 40 miles way they can use the CHOICE program, because they cannot use the VA Clinic in St. George. The other question that might arise perhaps is there a conflict of interest? How do we know that the health care providers in the VA are not getting kickbacks from the Medical Groups that are CHOICE providers. What are the safe guards against that.

    1. DannyG    

      I hope someone informs Secretary McDonald about this comment. There are too many bureaucrats, politticians, & people that have never stepped foot in a VETERANS Administration medical center making decisions that affect US (WE), THE PEOPLE, that have served this great country! He is our brother; he does care about us, but those same politicians have his hands tied so tight that he is having a hard time. Instead of dogging him, we, the VETERANS, need to rally behind him & show the politicians that TOGETHER, WE WILL CHANGE THE ADMINISTRATION TO FORCE THEM TO KEEP THEIR WORD TO EVERY VETERAN!

  16. Mark K. Russell    

    You know, the Veterans Choice program leaves a lot to be desired and it appears that it was written by business managers and politicians with little or no input from vets.. I know that the VA can’t be all things to all people. New programs that are implemented should positively affect the majority of Vets and I’m hard pressed to see how the Choice program comes close to accomplishing that.

  17. John . Borho, Jr.    

    Just another way to screw over veterans–all that money and nobody can even use it to get the services they need!! I’m over 2 hours from any VA hospital where I can get help and yet I’m not eligible for the Choice Program, go figure, if I die then the VA doesn’t have to worry about me any longer and they get to keep their damn money!!! I say screw it!!

  18. Dennis Schaefer    

    After I got my choice card, I went to about 19 different doctors to use it and none accepted it. I have heard vets say docs are not getting reimbursed.

  19. Rosemarie W. Stallings    

    Yes, you are making more veterans eligible, but it doesn’t help if they don’t approve people to use it. You have to call in and request it and hardly anyone is being approved.

  20. Terry Yetzbacher    

    I have had several veterans that are now the Power of Attoney of their folks that are veterans and they don’t understand why they can’t expand the Ve Choice card to those living in a nursing homes that are only 5 minutes away from a hospiital not a VA some of these veterans have alhemizers and it really confuses them for the long ride in the ambulance or they child taking them to the VA….I saw nothing in the VA Choice card about helping these Veterans……

    1. meril.johnson,jr    

      I, am, here in, the Philippines,,,,, I cant,, get the va, in, manila, to, reply, my emails,,,,, ,,,, thay, are playing, games,,,,, I need my meds,,, cant get,,, them,,, off there butttt,s to, reply,,,, meril,johnson,,,, # 7095,,,, I am, 100, percent,

    2. keith abshire    

      hell I cant get my doctor to do anything tried to get her to change some meds for me she tried to give me meds that dam near killed me the last time they don’t read and don’t care in Beckley wv va

  21. Ted Hardin    

    I can not get the VA here in Houston (Michael E. DeBakey VA) to give me my medication that I have been taking for years !!! They say the DEA controls the narcotics and they don’t give them out anymore !!! So for my chronic pain that I have had for YEARS she gives me extra strength Tylenol !!! All of a sudden she thinks she knows the answers that EVERYBODY else already knew and they all were giving me hydrocodone !!! My A1C was high and she kept telling me “DIET, DIET, DIET ” !!! If she said diet one more time I was going to throw up !!! I told her that I was unable to eat a lot of the food because I lost all of my teeth no matter how good I took care of them after I came back from Vietnam !!! I told her if I could get the VA to give me my teeth not only could I eat the foods but it would probably resolve my stomach problems !!! ( You know when I enlisted in 1965, they told us that we would have FREE health and dental care the rest of our lives !!! I guess they didn’t expect all of us coming back alive !!! While they were REMOLDING our VA they were cutting our dental benefits because it was getting to EXPENSIVE !!! There is something wrong with this !!! ) After telling her about the VA giving me my teeth she told me to put my food in a BLENDER !!! I asked her if I looked like a baby !!! She informed me what ever worked !!! The VA used to send you reminder letters about upcoming appointments but evidently they were taking so LONG to give you an appointment they now tell YOU to call and make your OWN appointment because they don’t have time nor personal to keep up with ALL of the patients !!! This VA used to be GREAT until all of the doctors left to start their own businesses because they were not getting paid enough !!! ( Remember, they are REMOLDING this VA !!!) I guess the remolding was and is more important than the veterans ??? This VA has gone DOWN hill and it doesn’t look like it is going to be fixed anytime soon !!! It looks GREAT but the service SUCKS !!! And YOU STILL OWE ME MY TEETH !!! Now quit making cuts and start taking care of the VETERANS !!!

  22. Harold D. Powell    

    How about help on weekends and after hours???

  23. James B Teppenpaw    

    back in 1978 i was flown home on a red cross jet in a cargo net ,landing in montgomery , the closest hospital to my home town was Tuskegee va alabama , ever sence then i have magor ploblems with travel dept agusta va Ga. i live on the florida line , i have to drive 5 and half hours round trip , all i get is razzle dazzled. i am 130% service connected disabled vet even with head trama , syc. ploblems , Tuskegee has a syc untit on the grounds , i have to go to this one hospital , but get staddict when i do , all the clienicts i go to that are closer to me say do not come back even call montgomery telling them for me not to come back , yea i got some card in the mail telling me to bring it to the va hospital, why do i have to bring my insure cards to a va hospital for ? , and yall take 80 bucks a month out for insurance out of my check, i thought the va was responcible for my medicale needs after i got out and disabled , but your to bissy spending 7.2 million a (HOUR) in afganistan on a war that has nothing to do with us , iran , packistan even took morning breakfest out a US Marines mouth and then gave yur selfs a raize . how you fight on a empty stomic ? by the way i am a US Marine and i do not like it worth a dern . 100 % siezure disorder , chronic anxiety attacks , 4 spinal cord injurys , orthoe aurthidouse in my neck , spinal cord , both shoulders and both hips , exsplosive personality disorder , certified goverment brain damage , i tired of driving 5 and half hours every month for my meds . there is no closer hospital for me , just razzle dazzle talk from agusta Ga. VA travel, keep it , they only give me 25 bucks for travel , when all the other vets gets there travel .

    1. Greg White    

      James I feel for you and will pray that Jesus somehow provides for you the medical treatment you need and deserve as a hero of this country ! Yours is an excellent example of how ever since the revolution this government has not given a shit about it’s vets.

      “F” the vets at Valley Forge, “F”ed the vets after the civil war, “F”ed the vets after WWI refusing to pay them and sending Douglas McArther that TRAITOR to kill them with tanks and machine guns, and on and on !!! That’s why they take the young men who are patriotic and don’t know any better to use them for fodder so the politicians and VA secretaries can line their pockets with blood money !!!

      Don’t worry James, in the end they are the ones who will get the “F”ing when Jesus deals with them !!!

      I Love you bro, hang in there, Greg White

  24. Donna ball    

    What a load of cap this whole thing is. I was so happy when we got the card and letter. I drive my dad over fifty miles and it takes at least a month on average to see his various doctors. The first time I called I quickly realized my happiness was unwarrented. The response to taking my dad somewhere closer wax met with a chuckle. Then I was informed that you have to have each visit individually approved and the approval was never going to happen. Tried anyway and they were right. Still driving 57 miles and waiting a month. Just another program that is all talk and no action.

    1. sandy gross    

      This is true. I am 80 miles away from a variety emergency room and I called when i received my card and was told I was not eligible.

  25. genecourt@webtv.net    

    Why don’t you tell us how, offer a form, or other instructions? NOT ENOUGH GUIDANE>

    1. Richar Backus    

      This rule is a joke. I live in Surfside Beach S.C. But because I have a “Clinic” in Myrtle Beach, I am NOT allowed to go to a civilian hospital for care. I am two HOURS away from Charleston,S.C. V.A. THIS needs to be fixed. It SHOULD be if you are over 40 miles from a V.A.HOSPITAL, not a clinic. Clinic’s can not do anything, but take your blood, ect. You CAN NOT get medical TREATMENT at a clinic. Smper Fi

  26. Neal Crawford    

    Need to be able to 2nd opinions of procedures to!!!! = VA keeps doing NERVROTOMY’S on my back every years(kills nerves for about 1 year) instead sending me to a SPINE INSTITUTE for LASER surgery to fix it for good = relieve pressure on nerve.

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