A little over a year ago, Eric Shinseki resigned as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the wake of the wait time scandal at the VA’s Phoenix Health Care System.
Then last August Congress passed the Veterans Choice and Accountability Act and President Obama signed it into law to expand the availability of hospital care and medical services for veterans. On November 5, 2014, the Veterans Choice began to cover non-VA care for eligible Veterans enrolled in VA healthcare.
At least that was the way it was supposed to work. But the VA fumbled the ball, and is still trying to fix things so the Veterans Choice Program actually does what it was designed to do.
Yesterday, Veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system received in the mail a one page advertisement from the Department of Veterans Affairs for the Veterans Choice Program.
The promo piece from the VA didn’t even come in an envelope. It was simply an 8.5 by 11-inch sheet of glossy paper folded along the vertical axis twice, with the message printed on one side of the paper and the veteran’s address, the VA’s return address, and the pre-sorted first class mail information printed on the other side.
Here is the message the VA sent to all of the Veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system. Good luck figuring out some of the VA’s jargon.
VETERANS CHOICE PROGRAM
Am I eligible?
The Veterans Choice Program provides eligible Veterans the option to receive VA Community Care from approved provider in their communities.
- Have you been told by your local VA medical facility that they can’t schedule your appointment within 30 days of the clinically indicated date or if no such date can be determine, your preferred date?
- Is your current residence more than 40 miles from the closest VA medical facility?
- Do you need to travel by air, boat or ferry to the VA medical facility closest to your home?
- Do you face an unusual or excessive burden in travelling to a VA medical facility based on the presence of a body of water or a geologic formation that cannot be crossed by road?
If you were enrolled in VA Health are on or before Aug 1, 2014 or you are eligible to enroll as a combat Veteran, and answered “YES” to any of the questions, you may be eligible.
How do I set up an appointment?
1. Gather your information about any other health insurance coverage you may have (e.g. employer, union-based health plans.
2. Call 1-866-606-8198 to make sure you qualify + schedule an appointment. When you call, we will walk you through the following steps.
- You will be asked to enter you ZIP code, and first and last name.
- We will check to make sure you are eligible for this program.
- We will check which of your needs are covered by the VA.
- You will be asked for your address and the name of your preferred VA Community Care. Unfortunately, not all providers will be eligible to participate so if your preferred provider is not available, we will recommend other providers in your area.
3. We will then work with you to schedule an appointment.
The hotline is exclusively for making sure you are eligible for the Choice Program and setting up a VA Community Care appointment. If you have questions about other aspects of your VA medical care or want to learn more about enrolling in VA health services, please visit www.va.gov/health.