The VA "Choice" program was hoped to be a real life-saver for veterans. The intention was to create funds that would allow veterans to seek health care from a medical provider of their "choice" rather than have to wait for an appointment at an already overcrowded VA Medical Center or Clinic. While this sounded wonderful in theory, in practice it has been one mess after another, which is typical for a Government program.
VA Secretary David Shulkin announced in June that the finds allotted for the "Choice" program would be completely used up by mid-August unless something were done quickly.
While many U.S. House and Senate members attempted to grab headlines by spouting off how the "Choice" program cannot be allowed to end, they did little else initially to address the real problem.
The House passed a bill Friday to not only fund the "Choice" program with another $2.1 Billion dollars, but also to provide an additional $1.8 Billion dollars to be used by the VA to open a couple of new clinics, replace other clinics and trying to fill some of the 49,000 vacancies within the VA. The Senate then passed the Bill yesterday and it now heads to the desk of the President for signature.
Part of the problem with the current Bill is that the Congress is robbing Peter to pay Paul. They are funding the additional monies by extending pension reductions for Medicaid eligible veterans in nursing facilities and continuing fees on VA guaranteed home loans. These reductions and fees hurt those veterans that are often the most in need of every benefit they can obtain.
The current Bill is supposedly just a "stop-gap" measure until Congress, the VA and various veterans organizations can sit down and hash out real reform on how the VA handles private-sector care, and how it is funded by Congress.
There is no doubt but the current "Choice" program is confusing and very difficult to navigate. Even worse, it is highly likely that even if a veteran is authorized to seek private health care, the medical provider will never get paid, or will be strung along being forced to jump through hoops that ultimately are going to turn a lot of private-sector providers off of the whole system.
You should contact your U.S. Senator/Representative and let them know that as a veteran you expect the best and most timely health care available. That you expect to be able to seek care from a private-sector provider in order to avoid the never-ending waiting lists within the VA Medical Centers. Finally, that you expect the "Choice" program to be fully funded WITHOUT having to steal funds from other needed VA programs.