VA today announced a number of changes to make participation in the Veterans Choice Program easier and more convenient for Veterans who need to use it. The move, which streamlines eligibility requirements, follows feedback from Veterans along with organizations working on their behalf.

“As we implement the Veterans Choice Program, we are learning from our stakeholders what works and what needs to be refined,” said VA Secretary Bob McDonald. “It is our goal to do all that we can to remove barriers that separate Veterans from the care they deserve.” To date, more than 400,000 medical appointments have been scheduled since the Veterans Choice Program went into effect on November 5, 2014.

Under the old policy, a Veteran was eligible for the Veterans Choice Program if he or she met the following criteria:

  • Enrolled in VA health care by 8/1/14 or able to enroll as a combat Veteran to be eligible for the Veterans Choice Program;
  • Experienced unusual or excessive burden eligibility determined by geographical challenges, environmental factors or a medical condition impacting the Veteran’s ability to travel;
  • Determined eligible based on the Veteran’s current residence being more than 40 miles driving distance from the closest VA medical facility.

Under the updated eligibility requirements, a Veteran is eligible for the Veterans Choice Program if he or she is enrolled in the VA health care system and meets at least one of the following criteria: 

  • Told by his or her local VA medical facility that they will not be able to schedule an appointment for care within 30 days of the date the Veteran’s physician determines he/she needs to be seen or within 30 days of the date the Veteran wishes to be seen if there is no specific date from his or her physician;
  • Lives more than 40 miles driving distance from the closest VA medical facility with a full-time primary care physician;
  • Needs to travel by air, boat or ferry to the VA medical facility closest to his/her home;
  • Faces an unusual or excessive burden in traveling to the closest VA medical facility based on geographic challenges, environmental factors, a medical condition, the nature or simplicity or frequency of the care needed and whether an attendant is needed. Staff at the Veteran’s local VA medical facility will work with him or her to determine if the Veteran  is eligible for any of these reasons; or
  • Lives in a State or Territory without a full-service VA medical facility which includes: Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire (Note: this excludes New Hampshire Veterans who live within 20 miles of the White River Junction VAMC) and the United States Territories (excluding Puerto Rico, which has a full service VA medical facility).

Veterans seeking to use the Veterans Choice Program or wanting to know more about it, can call1-866-606-8198 to confirm their eligibility and to schedule an appointment.  For more details about the Veterans Choice Program and VA’s progress, visit: www.va.gov/opa/choiceact.

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107 Comments

  1. Glynn Talley December 10, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Why was the eligibility requirement changed from “being 40 miles from an V.A. Facility which provided the service needed” to “40 miles from one with a full time primary care M.D.” This would restrict eligibility. Ex. I need PT a couple times a week. The nearest facilities offering this service are 55 miles and 1hr 30 mins. drive. Why does it matter that there is a primary care M.D. 25 miles from my home. Is he going to give me PT? This change makes no sense and actually hurts veterans.

  2. Daniel D, Schrein December 9, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    I live in Mexico and the person I talked to doesn’t know where Mexico is located relative to the USA. Another person said I do not meet the 40 mile requirement even though the nearest VA is about 1000 miles North. Another one said I would need to come into their office to sign up. All of this stellar information after 2 hours on the phone, most of which was wait time.

  3. Richard D Sifford December 7, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    CHOICE Program is a joke. Most of your people don’t even know what to tell you to get help. I can’t wait until Thrump becomes President and then maybe something will get done to help Vets.
    Most DR’S at VA hospital don’t use MY HEALTH VET . It could save lots of time when you have a problem.

  4. Michael Troas Newell December 7, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    It has been obvious from ‘Day One’ that the Veteran’s Choice Program was carefully created / legislated to allow a bare minimum number of Veterans to participate / receive private practice care from private care physicians and hospitals.
    First, it was that bull(redacted) about “40 miles as a crow flies”.
    Then, we are excluded / deemed ineligible due to miles or farther. These clinics won’t / don’t / can’t even lance a boil, much less offer ANY medical treatment beyond prescriptions (to be mailed from the 40> Miles Hospital) and Hospital Appointments.

    And who do you suppose will make the determination whether you meet the ‘new’ criteria:
    ***Faces an unusual or excessive burden in traveling to the closest VA medical facility based on geographic challenges, environmental factors, a medical condition, the nature or simplicity or frequency of the care needed and whether an attendant is needed. Staff at the Veteran’s local VA medical facility will work with him or her to determine if the Veteran is eligible for any of these reasons;*** Are we to believe that the VA will allow Contractor Doctors at the satellite clinics to decide whether we’ll be allowed ‘Veteran’s Choice”?
    We’ll continue to be (redacted) upon until our representatives in Congress are forced to accept medical care from VA Hospitals and clinics. Until that day, shut up and suffer or die.

  5. James Webb December 7, 2015 at 11:10 am

    CBOC does not work, appointments are not made, followups to not exist. Sorry if not at active VA med center there is no care available. I am enrolled at Myrtle Beach clinic, last year had no primary care annual appointment. Was told by clinic that they do not notify of appointment. Walked in made my appointment, received notification twice prior to appointment. Good job! Provider said she wanted ultrasound of Kidneys and urine for bladder cancer screen, both local clinic available. That was in July, its December and not a word from them. Its sad to be a 61 year old vet dependent on VA for med care. This clinic needs to be restaffed or better managed, I performed 8 years as MSA within a full med facility and if I had performed like these folks I would of been seeking other employment.

    • James Webb December 7, 2015 at 11:18 am

      sorry for the duplication was getting captcha code error…

  6. James Webb December 7, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Unless you have access to a VA med center not much help available, Cboc is a joke, where appointment notification is a joke. I am enrolled in the Myrtle Beach clinic, last year received no notification for primary care appointment was told by staff member that they no longer do this. Walked in this year and made appointment, received notice twice prior to appointment. Good job! Went to appointment, provider said she wanted kidney ultrasound and could do in clinic,also urine for bladder cancer screen. It is December and have not heard a word from clinic… I worked as a MSA for 8 years, if I had performed as these people are allowed I would of been terminated. If the cboc is under no better management than this, do the vets a favor and just close the door.. Also had care at local ER, a year later was still getting billed for services. I hand carried every bill into cboc where it was copied or scanned into system, again management fail. Sad to be a vet, 61 years old and this is the only outlet I have for care.

  7. M Titus December 7, 2015 at 7:08 am

    Those with problems with Veterans Choice program or any other VA concerns also have the choice to contact there Congressman or state Senator. Let them what is going on, and just maybe they can do something. Remember there the ones that help put into play.

  8. Jeffrey Scott Hintzman December 7, 2015 at 1:48 am

    Doctor bills in Anchorage Alaska Slow or not being paid $ to my Doctor. Use of choice program. Takes 3 hours drive each way for care. United States Army Ret. DAV, Alaska
    Jann Urban,

  9. John Lombardi December 6, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    Why doesn’t Veteran’s Choice cover vet’s for necessary medical services not provided at your nearest VAMC? I required critical surgery but the nearest VAMC providing that surgery is 84 miles from my home. Public transportation is not available from my location during early morning hours. Driving was not an option. I tried to have the VA cover the procedure on a fee basis but was told no, because my “Primary Care” doctor was within 40 miles. So what! My PCD is not doing the surgery. The type of surgery, as I said, is not performed there at all.
    I ended up going to a local non-VA hospital using Medicare and to date it has cost me over $5,000.

  10. John Malloy December 6, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    The choice program is another distraction to cover the failures the VAMC is known for all too well. When I was able to get an appointment under the choice program, I was referred to substandard providers that I would not have ever seen under any circumstances! There has been a rush of medical providers pop up to get on the referral list that hire a substandard staff, outfitted with substandard equipment most likely flogged off by real Doctors when the equipment was worn or outdated. No experienced staff, technicians not RN’s or Physicians, and the offices were not anything an informed patient would voluntarily seek out! The program is another example of the VA Medical system perpetrating a cheap way out of providing healthcare to Veterans. The choice program is a scam to allow the VAMHS to dodge accountability for good hearted American taxpayers dollars being wasted by big government employees and bureaucratic layers to squander money in the guise of “Helping Veterans” It will be a good day when the VA collapses from non participation an Veterans start receiving good healthcare from the communities they are loved by!

  11. Charles Hornaday December 6, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    I don”t see anything better about the upgrade, sounds like the same ole mess to me. I needed to be seen by a local cardiac doctor over a month ago because the local VA could not get to me within 30 days. The Veteran Choice contacted me and got all my information to set me up with a local cardiologist and said they would contact me in five days with an appointment. Almost three weeks went by and they finally contacted me and wanted the same information again that I had given them three weeks earlier, and said the same thing again that I would hear from them in five days with an appointment. It is now Dec 6th and no word from them again, my VA appointment is Dec 7, so I got alot of nothing as far as help from Veterans Choice. Typical BS !!

  12. Richard Moser December 6, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    My husband had a procedure done by the VA in 2014, and follow ups every 3 months without any problems. Now in 2015 the same procedure was done with Choice Card. Because they could not take him in the VA for the surgery for 3 months. Now They are saying it was coded wrong and not approved, therefore they are not going to pay. Also on this second procedure I was told Choice card had to make the appointment with MD for the procedure however they kept the date of the appointment already taken for the procedure. Now he is getting close to date of the first follow up to be sure the tumors in the bladder are not coming back, after the surgery. I was told the MD had to make the appointments and get the approval too. As the tumors are cancerous when the biopsy is returned. They do not seem aware how important this procedure is a necessary procedure. I think they should have a better way of taking care of the VETS, It seems this new system is a way to delay
    seeing the Vets in a timely manner.

  13. John Bobey December 6, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    The Choice Program .. About six or seven weeks back, I was told the V A approved me.

    I was told in three days I get an appointment in three days.

    STILL WAITING………The V A said that they would help me find a doctor.

    Choice would call three times a day and would ask the questions, does V A pay Choice for each call?

    Bobey 9762

  14. Darrel Snyder December 6, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Why not do away with the VA health care system, sell all their hospitals and give all qualified veterans a insurance card that provides the same benefits. I think it would be cheaper and provide the veterans better care and a choice of Doctors and facilities.

  15. R. Hall December 6, 2015 at 3:19 am

    The only thing that the “Choice” program delivers consistently is a failed business model and delivery system. The employees have 0 accountability being able to remain a nameless voice behind the phone as the “Customer” is passed on to yet another person who seems to know less than the previous. This was a wonderful idea and those who thought of this should be congratulated.

    Unfortunately, this system with the present corporation is a dismal failure and will, left to its on devices, remain a dismal failure.

  16. thurman valentine December 6, 2015 at 1:28 am

    scheduled appointment thru the choice program now dr is billing me and threating to take me to court for the bill that choice program is required to pay.

  17. Calvin L. Boyd December 6, 2015 at 12:36 am

    I was given a choice appointment to see a local eye doctor. Everything went fine until I needed new glasses at which time I was told I had to pay for them. In order for the VA to provide glasses I was told I had to go to VAMC-OKC to get them which is why I used the choice program in the first place. Now I have to wait an even longer time before I can get to VAMC-OKC. It will take over two months to get my new glasses as I can’t afford the cost.

  18. Charles Martin December 5, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    This program is a way that the government can give money away, so they don’t have to use it for Veteran health care. I just used the system and it took 2 months and a lot of wasted time on the phone for someone who never shows up after 45 min wait.I could have made my appointment and been done in all this time. We should be able to have a choice of who we see about our health care, the government gave us no choice to go to Vietnam and get this way, we had no say so, now it’s time we should have some say so not some idiot from Washington making decision on our health. get ride of choice and let us make our own appointments and not waste money on something we don’t need, use the money for our health care…..

  19. Ronald Mayo December 5, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    This still doesn’t address the problems of having a primary provider 3 mile away from home. With very limited capabilities. Basic care they have physical , flu shot labs. they don’t have psychiatrist or most other speciality clinics. So I have to drive 50 miles. For everything else including PTSD treatment which gives me a 100% SC rating. I see a NP who giving same medication 3 or 4 times a year. Issues can’t be addressed because they have no psychiatrist at the clinic are not avaliable local CBOC.

    So I travel 50 miles depending on month 7-8 times easy.

  20. William Titus Asbury December 5, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    What if the CBOC is unable to provide any coverage/care other than Prescriptions and Inoculations and it takes 9 months to get to talk to a human on the phone? Much less get an appointment.
    Can the Veteran go to another CBOC facility and get help? Or must they use the CBOC they are assigned to?

  21. Lummie Lee Deas December 5, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Veterans Choice Program aint no such thing., more likely the Pretenders Program. I live 48 miles from the VA and have tried for a year now to get them to accept my local Primary doctor who has been ready, willing and able to accept the program. He is part of UF/Shands group but VCP keep throwing up hurtles and Catch 22’s. Truth of the matter is they do not want to let us beyond the clutches of the VA Clinic. I am now slowly recovering from a stroke and simply can not make that 96 mile roundtrip. I am 86 years old and even without stroke recovery, I can not drive that distance anymore. Neither do I have someone to drive me even with payment.

    I have to try and find a free lawyer to take up my fight with VCP. What a shame that one must resort to legal help just to get someone to do their damn job. I am sure once they finish screwing with you on the phone they retire to their break room and rejoice how they put the gotcha’s to some poor old Vet.

    The VA can never operate efficiently and now just look at this VCP and their associates making it even more difficult. I served my Country Honorably and how nice it would be if the VA could serve us Vets honorably.

    The VA must allow outside medical by choice and place the VA under the Department of Defense. There has to be discipline and accountability. I bet after you line up a few in front of a firing squad, attitudes and efficiency would improve.

  22. Nancy L. Harvey December 5, 2015 at 10:11 am

    I am writing in regards to my Husband James who is the Vet. We were put into the Choice Program in July of this year. We were sent to a Dr. Deschner in San Marcos, Tx. We went to see him and he told us he wanted a CTScan before he would give my husband a thing called a Smart Pill to try to find out why he is so sick all the time. This was on July 15, 2015.
    We made several calls to Dr. Deschner’s office trying to get the CT Scan done to no avail. We made several trips back up to Austin to the Clinic and talked to the Patient Advocate who was so kind and tried to help us. We received a call from a lady from Dr. Deschner’s office telling us to get the CT Scan done. I told her that it was their responsibility to get the CT Scan done as the VA had sent us to them. We never heard any more from them. I was under the impression that they were to take care of all the appointments connected to the visit. When we had Jim’s regular visit with his primary care doctor Dr. Singereddy at Austin Clinic on Oct. 20th 2015 she asked if we had heard anything from Dr. Deschner about his stomach problems, we told her we were waiting to get a CT Scan done, she ordered the CT Scan for him and we had it done on Nov. 17th 2015. we took the results to Dr. Deschner’s office on Nov. 20, 2015. I received a call from a lady called Lilly from Dr. Deshcner’s office telling me that my insurance would not pay for the Smart Pill. I told her that this was all to paid by the VA through the Choice Program. She did not know what I was talking about. Now she wants us to make another visit to Dr. Deschner’s office because it has been so long since he saw us. We are really getting irritated at how this is being done. We would have been better off to have just waited to see a gastroenterologist at the VA and let them do what they wanted to. So as far as we are concerned this Choice Program is of no use to us. .Thank you . Mrs. Nancy Harvey Kyle, Tx.

  23. Robert Faulise December 5, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Why isn’t dental part of the VA Choice Program? It is almost impossible to get a dental appointment within the 30 day time limit. It took almost 6 months to get one crown put in.

  24. Danny R Singleton December 5, 2015 at 9:15 am

    What the VA needs to do for veterans who do not have a VA hospital close by is contract with local facilities to perform necessary procedures and night and weekend services. My local clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30 pm. After those hours I am on my own unless my condition is “life threatening” and then I can go to a local hospital or clinic.
    For example: My local clinic has full time physicians but, does not have an x-ray clinic. I had to drive one hour and fifteen minutes for a five minute x-ray. How is that efficient.
    Having local non-va options has to save the VA money and would help to alleviate staff shortage.

  25. Danny R Singleton December 5, 2015 at 8:58 am

    It took me 2 1/2 months to get to my first eye appointment for cataract surgery through Veterans Choice. Over that period of time I spoke with 15 different people at one of 3 locations throughout the US. I was told a different story each time. I never spoke to the same person twice. I had no case number nor case representative so each time I called the person answering the phone had to look up my account and muddle through the process. Several told me they would call me back and never did. One could not even say Opthamology. After 5 tries I told her that is close enough. I was told several times I had been approved and when I called the local eye clinic to verify I was told I was not approved. And the list goes on and on.
    I questioned nurses at my local CBOC and was told the system worked better when local clinics were in charge.
    The new VCP is not part of the VA system and therefore is a new Washington nightmare. I will not recommend the VCP to anyone nor will I use it again. Should have left the old way alone. It worked.

  26. lloyd roy gregory December 5, 2015 at 7:30 am

    The Veterans Choice Program is nothing more than a maze! I was give a cardiac appointment at my local Pensacola VA clinic for Feb. 17. I have been spitting up pinkish blood, chest pains and shortness of breath all upon moderate exercise. I was told to call the number for VCP since my appoint was nearly 3 months away. I called Veterans Choice Program and was told my va provider has to submit their information. Been told three times to call back to Veterans Choice Program to see if they had received my infor. They had not. Guess I will either die from heart attack or going to local er for va payment. What a system these people play with. The Veteran is never put first for treatment. It is all about paper playing. The VA system from the top down should be a shame for how they treat us and then are so proud they throw conventions and take pictures of themselves. Shame, shame. lloyd r gregory

  27. AR Brown December 5, 2015 at 6:39 am

    I agree with most of the comments, and I have pushed my way through the minutia.
    1. True – Choice Care is an evolving program. The staff is learning as they go. There are inconsistencies. They record every conversation. They drop the ball on scheduling, and like a coach, I push them to get it done.
    2. I have learned that my doctor has to refer me to a specialist. That speciality office will then refer me to Choice Care. That office must send to Choice Care the referral which may take up to 5 days(possibly more). The Veteran must call Choice Care to see if they have the referral. If not, I call back to the referring physicians office and push them to get it done. Wait a few days and then call Choice again.
    3. Next problem, making sure there is a doctor that either accepts Choice or is willing to set up accepting Choice. Every doctor that I have used in Choice, I have found them myself, search priority and criteria being location and reputation. I have succeeded in getting a few doctors to sign up. I know. This is frustrating. Choice and the VA is trying to get doctors on board with the program.
    4. So when I talk to the Choice representatives, I am armed with information, because I know more than the person (typically) answering the phone. (military taught me that). I inform the rep who may tell me there are no doctors within 40 miles (or more) that can help me, I tell them about the ones that I have found. By that time, I have already built the relationship with the doctors office, had their billing team contact Choice to set up the program and/or the appointment.
    5. Choice is possessive about scheduling the appointment. I am assertive about doing it myself. I set up my appointment by circumventing the Choice attitude/goal by building that relationship with my doctor. When the doctor calls they suggest a date and time that works for me and for them. Choice is not organized in this regard.
    6. When the representative irritates me I remind them that they are recording and so am I. I have written a letter and complained and received a response. Furthermore, I have dealt with management on a few occasions along the way.
    7. Your doctor must submit progress notes to your local VA referring facility. Go to the fee based, none VA care department and push for assistance. Keep your primary care physician informed every step of the way. He/She is highly relevant to the approval process for care. Once Choice tells you that you are approved, the VA still has to approve the care before Choice pays. Confusing, frustrating, I know. But if you want/need the care, just keep marching forward, until the task is completed. We military people understand that task.

    I have learned that the system is disorganized and evolving. It’s just like what we as consumers put up with technology. Companies create products with glitches and we provide the complaints and feedback to the company. Then we get improved versions. It is not easy when you are sick, injured and in need of care to try to sort out the maze of bureaucracy and lack of informed personnel both military and civilian. But, it must be done and I am grateful to have something to work with. Its more than I had before. Stay the course.

  28. Jason Thomason December 5, 2015 at 12:41 am

    I am a retired veteran. My wife is a veteran. I am Choice Program approved. They tell my wife she is not 40 miles away from VA care. I find that hard to believe since I live at the same address. I have used google maps and it is exactly 46.1miles away. Why are the Choice Reps so rude, and not helpful to my wife of 16years of service. She needs an exam, and Choice Reps are making this to damn difficult for her. Makes me want to call on her behalf and chew somebody out. Please fixe the mileage calculator that the Choice Reps have. Apparently they don’t know what is 40 miles or 46.1 miles. Please have someone contact me so we can get this appointment scheduled.

  29. Stephen R Quintal December 4, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    I live in Florida an come under the Gainesville VA Hospital Myself and 43 other veteran were still in the original fee Basic Program with the Yellow FE Basics Card VA Form 10-1174 mar 2003. The informed me I could no longer use my Fee Basic Card and I had to use the choice
    Program that congress told them all veterans had to use the choice program. One I was put on the fee basic program by a medical doctor because of my needs. I card as not been taken away from me and is valid until 11 Dec 2016 and is still active on my VA file. I have received nothing in writing from the VA telling me my Fee Basic card has been terminated but was told verbally I could not use the card. Since I now have been in the choice Program for Pain Management it has already taken over a month for the VA and choice Program to set up a appointment to see my Doctor who has been treating me since 2001. I have called the choice program several times and each time they could not answer my question. The main thing I cannot understand that there is only 44 veterans in the old fee basic program overseen by Gainesville VA and it was working. I am 80% veteran 100 % unemployable 67 Years ols Veit Nam Veteran had 12 years active Duty with the army pay grade was SFC E-7. This is just like they treated us when we returned home from Veit Nam. Now that I have choice I am not receiving the proper Pain Management that I need. Can someone tell me if the old fee Basic Program has been cancelled and is it in writing ans since I was put in the fee basic program by a medical Doctor I Think a medical Doctor should be the one to remove me from the program not congress or VA Admin persons.

  30. LONNIE CHARLES BELL December 4, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    THERE IS ALWAYS PROBLEMS WITH ANY SYSTEM WHETHER THE GOVERNMENT OR CIVILIAN. BUT I HAVE HAD VERY GOOD SERVICE FROM THE CHOICE CARD PROGRAM SINCE RECEIVING MY CARD. I APPLAUD THE VA FOR ITS INITATIVE TO IMPLEMENT THE PROGRAM. AND FOR WHAT EVER PROBLEMS THAT EXIST THAT THEY WILL SOON BE WORKED OUT AND ELIMINATED. IM NOT DENYING THAT PROBLEMS EXIST FOR I KNOW THAT THERE ARE SOME. I JUST AT THIS POINT IN TIME HAVE NOT HAD ANY. I HAVE HAD SEVERAL PROCEDURES SCHEDULED AND PERFORMED THRU THE CHOICE CARD PROGRAM.

  31. Josh A December 4, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    The first time I tried to utilize veterans choice I called the call center and ended up hanging up on the operator as she could not find the correct screen to input my information.
    The second time I tried to utilize veterans choice for swollen tonsils. Pretty easy and straight forward. I called my local VA office and they had a 30 day wait for an appointment. Therefore, I called Veterans Choice. They told me I had to get a signed document of referral from my VA doctor, then the VA doctor would send that to the Veterans Choice people. This can take up to 2 weeks. Then it takes up to 5 days to provide the veteran with an appointment to a provider, which will normally be in 3-5 days after.
    Isn’t this one of the reasons Veterans Choice was created? To alleviate long appointment waits?

  32. Bobette Steward December 4, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    I had similar problems with the choice program. Received appointment card in October to call for appointment. NO Appointment available less than 30 days out. Next available date was December 2, 2015. Was told to call Choice Program. Called, and representative told me to JUST WAIT, no information from VA yet. Called back after 7 days and was told to contact Choice Champion (Patient Advocate), because they still had not received eligibility information. Been in VA system since 1998, 80% disability. called Choice Champion, left message. Person called back after 3 days and told me information had been sent and that I will receive a call from them. Never received call……Does this really work or is it just to PACIFY the Veteran? Representatives were VERY RUDE! Glad I didn’t cancel appointment with FTOPC.

  33. James W Miles December 4, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    I just received an email about VA’s changes to the Choice program. Most of the changes concern eligibility improvements. I had no problems with eligibility but not sure what Choice can do to improvement medical services.

    I live 77 miles from the VA hospital in Charleston SC to which I am assigned but I go to the Navy hospital VA clinic in Beaufort which is 47 miles away for most of my regular doctor visits. Because I am over 40 miles from the nearest VA facility I have been allowed to use the Choice program.

    My first use of Choice was to replace a broken pair of glasses. I could not see very well using an old pair with its older lens. I needed a replacement pair a soon as possible. Choice gave me an appointment in about 20 days in Greenwood SC which was about 125 miles away. I had called Charleston VA and they could have given me an appointment about 60 days out so I went to Greenwood. When I went to the appointment in Greenwood, the eye doctor told me he would do the eye exam but I had to go to VA hospital in Charleston to get the frames and place the order for the glasses. So, then I had to make a second appointment to be measured for the frames and order the glasses. I received glasses in the mail about 3 months after making the choice appointment. I should have waited for the appointment at the Charleston VA Hospital to save time. I wasted time driving 125 miles followed by 77 miles and the return trips when I could have just taken the first appointment at Charleston VA.

    Next time Choice sent me to a doctor in Walterboro which is 37 miles away. The receptionist told me that I had an appointment but since Choice and/or VA did not yet send my medical records the doctor would not see me. I rescheduled my appointment at the Beaufort Naval VA clinic. I should have just gone to my clinic and not used Choice.

    Next time Choice called I explained what had happened on my last try using Choice’s services. They told me I should go to the Beaufort Clinic for my blood test. Then go back after all the tests are completed to hand carry my results to the Walterboro doctor. Then I could schedule a visit to see the Walterboro doctor. I asked them are you serious?! It would take more trips, longer mileage and more time. This time I just went directly to Beaufort VA for an appointment. The only thing now is my good doctor says I have a benign cancer on my hand from sun exposure. I ask for an appointment at the Charleston VA to remove it. He said appointments at the dermatology clinic are running a minimum of 180 days out but if I watch it and it changes I could possibly get in quicker appointment. Should I call Choice? The VA clinic knows nothing of what Choice is doing and Choice knows nothing of the hardship they put on us veterans.

    Choice is making a good profit from their service contract, I’m sure of that, but I have not received any improved service from Choice. Point of fact, the quality of the service has gone from bad to non existent. Major changes are still needed. Somehow, some way, and at sometime this program must be fixed or shutdown. Just give us a plastic card that gets us to a doctor when we need one with no questions.

  34. Ivan Mills December 4, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    Better watch out! They don’t like to pay their bills. I saw the eye doctor last February, in November I received a collection notice. Now my credit is affected.

  35. David Schrader December 4, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    I was pretty fortunate when I had to use Choice. My nearest full service VA facility is 103 miles from my home. I had to use the ER at our local hospital and needed to see a specialist, the specialist that I needed to see had just left a few days prior My local hospital asked which hospital would I like to go to,so I requested the closest VA hospital ( Las Vegas ), as luck would have it, the VA hospital in Las Vegas was full and no beds available. I was then transported to a civilian hospital in Vegas. I was in for 5 days and got taken care of. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the VA paid 100% including the transport charges. I wish that everyone else could experience the good fortune that I received from the Choice program.
    .

  36. Theresa Kelly December 4, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    Too bad the VA doesn’t care for veterans who do not have a service connected disability. I have tried several times and each time I am told I am not eligible for health care because the VA is too busy and I do not have a service connected disability.

  37. Lee R Hubbard December 4, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    This in no improvement at all. Same old BS from the VA. What good is 40 miles if you travel over 40 to see a specialist. I spent 4 hours on the phone yesterday, cut off twice and never got any results. Their employees have no ability to do anything except piss off the Veterans. Illegal immigrants get better care than we do. Bob Mc Donald is a joke as head of the VA, just like Obama as President. When it take the Choice people 5 months to schedule you and appointment, and it is 171 miles from my house, this is what we have to put up with. Get a grip Washington, Vets are not dogs to be kicked around. I challenge Bob McDonald to pay me a visit and witness firsthand how I am treated. Yesterday I was told I cannot get treatment for my Hep C because it is not yet bad enough! I’ll bet if this was a child of the President they would be treated, as would an illegal. How about just getting this simple doctrine, treat all Vets now, wherever they can get the best treatment. Who cares, not the VA. I love this country but not this government. Hope you come soon Bob, I may not be alive long at the rate I receive care. Congress, you all are guilty of empty promises. The office for Senator Lee told me it would be best if I just moved to Arizona. They don’t have the umph to fight the VA. SAD but true.

  38. Robert Earl Kinslow Jr. December 4, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    I don’t see eligibility as the problem. I’ve been eligible since 11/14 when I received my choice card. The problem is that the doctors can’t make a decision, let me explain my experience. I’ve been waiting for an MRI since 8/15. It was submitted by two doctors and denied. My current primary care put in for it again 11/15 and I have yet to be scheduled. This is all after a fee base doctor recommended it in February of this year and for me to see a neurosurgeon. My authorization expired in February and wasn’t renewed on the grounds that the VA would now take over my care. I’ve been dealing with the VA since 7/13, was awarded 100% total and permanent 1/16, in my experience and those I talk to, nothing works as well as these articles would like the public to believe. I have a lot more issues than these but don’t have the time to write about them. I do have a solution. Give everyone a real real insurance card and do away with the VA medical. It seems this would save millions if not billions of dollars that are wasted in the bureaucracy in running the system.

  39. Brad Dull December 4, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    I have applied to fly from Oregon to the Cincinnati V. A. for a new procedure. The procedure does not take place in Oregon. Even though the V.A. has been treating me for over 6 years, this is not a procedure covered under my 80% Unemployable disability. It is a new procedure for sleep apnea that eliminates the machine totally.
    I am guessing that the V. A. (if approved) will not cover the airfare, and am assuming they will cover the procedure.
    Any positive feedback is welcomed..
    Thanks

  40. Marvin Umbras December 4, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    There is nothing that says non-service related medical can’t be taken care of at the Manila, Philippines VA clinic, in fact it qualifies for this choice program under your guidelines.

  41. jeffrey December 4, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    The Choice program still needs more improvement and actually monitoring. I was going to an outside clinic using Choice due to VA could not get me seen within 30 days. There are at least two problems with my scenario. The outside provider needed to see me further and was informed by both VA and Triwest to submit progress reports, forst, they did not indicate where to submit the paperwork. I told the clinic to send it to both VA and Triwest to be on the safe side. It turned out that only Triwest needed it. Then, I waited…for a month…nothing…the clinic contacted Triwest and was informed that it takes a while to get the information uploaded to their system. Another month passed, still nothing, meanwhile my pain was getting worse. I finally called the VA and was transferred to the Choice program coordinator and was informed that the clinic should have submitted a “Secondary Authorization Request (SAR)” which no one informed the clinic about nor did Triwest request for. The Choice program rep told me it was now being taken care of….had I not called to follow it would not have been taken care of.
    There are vets who are not as diligent as I am or have no one to follow up for them and they they fall back into the rut the VA is supposed to get them out of by having a Choice program.
    The problem presented defeats the purpose of this program. Please look into this. I’m sure my situation is not unique.

  42. Theodore B Hensley December 4, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    I live within 40 miles of a VA Clinic that has a full-time Primary Doctor. However, at this clinic, you can only get a physical, a shot or lab work. They have any specialist there. I have acute glaucoma and I have to see my Ophthalmologist at least twice a year and sometimes more. For that appointment, I have to drive from Sequim, WA to the VA Hospital in Seattle. That is a 120 mile round-trip and requires crossing the Puget Sound by Ferry. This trip is very costly considering the cost of gasoline, ferry fees and I have to have someone go with me as they always dilate my eyes for the examination. It would seem to make more sense and benefit the veterans more if the requirement for seeing a local Doctor would be “—-more than 40 miles from the VA facility that had the Doctor that was needed to treat the condition. Ted Hensley

  43. Julius Wade henson December 4, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    This a great program I think VA is doing the right thing in the Choice program. I like it a lot

  44. Michael Houlihan December 4, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Veterans choice is a waste of time and eye wash to make the public think the VA is improving service. I was authorized to see a local eye doctor but all he could do was the exams I still have to take his prescription 50 or 70 miles to the nearest VA clinic so what’s the point of Veterans Choice if this program does not give you what you need. The same is for needing other equipment like crutches, wheel chairs and other things. Veterans Choice is just a way to give tax money to already over paid local health care providers.

  45. Ray Aquila December 4, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Choice just doesn’t measure up to Fee Bases. Having used Fee Bases in the past, Fee Bases always went off without a hitch.
    Calling Choice is a joke. I am still waiting for a return call after contacting Choice two times.
    This was at the beginning of Nov 2015.
    I believe I will just wait for my scheduled appointment in Jan 2016.

  46. Peter J Cahill December 4, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    BEWARE when using outside medical sources of any kind approved by VA!!! They do not pay their bills until it has damaged your credit. In my case the VA did not pay an approved OUTSIDE HOSPITAL STAY FOR OVER 4 YEARS! Due to VA red tape in paying bills for outside approved services. I have seen my credit scores get constantly negatively dinged to the point of approximately -100 points on my score through Equifax, Experian and Transunion.

  47. John Lately December 4, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    The earliest appointment date I could get to see a VA neurosurgeon was over 90 days from my VA primary care physician’s request. I had been enrolled in the Choice Program previously so I thought I could get in to see a private physician in less than 30 days. No way. The Choice program took over 2 months to get an approval and then couldn’t get my records from the VA in a timely fashion. After many phone calls and hours on the phone with Choice I finally requested to speak with a supervisor (next time I will not wait more than two weeks before I ask for a supervisor.). He was very responsive and that afternoon he was able to get me an appointment to see the neurosurgeon within a week.
    What a difference.
    The Choice people often acknowledged that they were new hires and were still learning OJT how to do their jobs. Perhaps it will get better but I doubt that this or any govt agency can come close to operating like the private sector does.

  48. Suzanne Stewart December 4, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Air, Boat or Ferry>? really? So, I live within 40 miles of a va facility with a primary care provider who will just refer me 120 miles away to Pensacola…great…great service to veterans. 240 miles round trip to get a CT scan with no travel pay. Gee thanks ! AND furthermore, I am the only driver, it’s kinda steep to take a cab 240 miles to Pensacola round trip if I have to be sedated. SMH.

  49. William S Palmer December 4, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    Va choice worked for a minute for me but there is a communication gap in saw a foot doctor and him nor I was told how many visits I was allowed in had two visits a ND could not got back because I did not know that there was six visit to the foot doctor the foot doctor did not know either. So I went back to my primary care physician they sent me back to va choice and then they told me that my va choice was cancelled because I did not finish my prior visits. So I have to suffer because they do not communicate with fee base doctors or the vet. I had to travel close to 100 miles to fix this thing and don’t get paid mileage still don’t have a appointment but was assured that in 5 to 7 days they will get me my foot doctors appointment. Can hardly walk one spurs is no joke. Who’s watching the store?

  50. Katherine Anne Hedlund December 4, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Each time I phone Veterans Choice it takes almost 30 minutes to get someone to answer the call. This is totally ridiculous. I also have gotten messages to call them back only to find out it was an old message so another 30 minutes wasted. And each mailed hard copy of authorization was received weeks after my appointments. Let’s get this fixed. This is no way to treat a veteran

  51. Joost Hensen December 4, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Yes, the CHOICE program would be wonderful if it could work more patient-friendly. I had a problem with my left eye. My VA primary physician referred me for follow-up to a VA optometrist. I knew the problem was not one to be solved by an optometrist, but the VA system required the optometrist visit before being able to see an eye doctor, an ophthalmologist. In my case, with lots of pleading with VA and CHOICE personnel, it took from September 24 to December 1 to finally get the appointment with the optometrist, 60 days plus and well beyond the CHOICE 30 day promise. When seeing me the morning of December 1, 2015, the optometrist diagnosed internal bleeding within my left eye. Apprehensive that I might lose sight on the eye, he immediately referred me for a same-day, December 1, afternoon appointment with a specialist ophthalmologist. Meanwhile, the eye problem appears to have been stabilized. But the danger out there is VA and CHOICE bureaucratic slowness. I got lucky to run into a genuinely caring optometrist who decided on immediate same-day referral, in my case warning me that the condition of my eye could not wait for notorious VA-CHOICE bureaucratic slowness.

  52. mike December 4, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    Twice I have tried to use this choice card and both times it was a cluster fuk and didn’t work.
    I don’t know anyone that it has workds for either.
    More va bs

  53. Donald T McCullough December 4, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    O.K. so maybe I was a bit short with the webpage, so let me try again. I was diagnosed with neck problems after an x-ray at my primary care facility in Fairbanks. My Advanced Nurse Practitioner prescribed physical therapy and if that did not work possibly injections and an Orthopedic Doctor. Nine days later I received a call from the VA in Anchorage and was told I had been approved and they would contact CHOICE which in turn would contact me and make an appointment. Why is it necessary for CHOICE to be involved at all? I did not opt into CHOICE and did have one experience with Tri West and that was horrible. Tri West sent me 720 miles roundtrip for a hearing test that could have been accomplished 12 miles from my home at one of many businesses! I have heard about CHOICE and do not want them to be involved in my medical needs unless the VA can not take care of me. Having the ability to make an appointment is something my primary care provider should be able to accomplish but I have been told they can not do it because of this CHOICE program. I am contacting my Alaska State Senator the Honorable Dan Sullivan with regards to this matter. Welcome Home Brothers and Sisters and a Merry Christmas to all

  54. Roger Wolbeck December 4, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Has the system been worked in the phone centers on I tried to get in to a neurologist for over 3 mo never was able to talk to the to the same clerk. all we got was I am so sorry fro the inconvenience hearing this for over 6 weeks calling every other day was crazy. when I finally did get the appt made then I received calls wanting to schedule my testing which had been done 9 weeks earlier. the scheduling team needs to get some training.

  55. Donald T McCullough December 4, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    My third attempt to help resolve or get answers from this website has resulted in me giving up! Things like unreadable captcha code, your email address will not be published, required fields are marked * etc. etc. I am now going to contact my Senator from Alaska and go from there.

  56. Donald T McCullough December 4, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    What?

  57. Theresa M Osterman December 4, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    My Ortho specialist put me in the Choice program almost SIX MONTHS ago, for a shot I’m supposed to get every 3 months. I STILL have not received my FIRST shot since being put in the program. Brought this up to the lady that called me TWO months ago. She told me I would have priority status, STILL WAITING!!!!!! It is NOW DEC. 4th, STILL have NOT heard ONE word from them!!

  58. Donna Parsons December 4, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Is this just the opposite of Home Base Primary?

    also, anybody, veteran or not, if they’re over 65 and have Medicare, has that choice; what we did with my dad after he’d been fee based out for oncology when his VAMC didn’t have one and then after they got one back and was going to have to start going back there but didn’t want to change doctors, just switched over and started using his Medicare; coordination can get a little hairy, but can be done

  59. Vincent A. Villany December 4, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    I have been on the choice program for 8 months. I thought I would be assigned a primary care doctor close to my home whose office I could contact directly and quickly for my medical needs. The local doctor could than administer the correct treatment and bill the VA. ( one local clinic, 8 miles away, I spoke to about this wanted no part of the VA as the clerical work required to get paid would raise the cost far to much for them to want to do it) Instead I was assigned a doctor at a clinic 35 miles away and I do not contact directly, said doctor. I must first call the closest VA clinic, the VA than calls the ‘choice doctor, makes an appointment for me and tells me when it is. It’s not always easy to contact the VA quickly by phone and the clinic where my assigned doctor is, is not available to me when it snows. So the choice program is better for me than not having it, but it needs to be better. It would seem that if a doctor is acceptable to care for a vet said doctor should be trusted to not rip off the VA and this can be cross checked with the vet him/her self. Vincent

  60. Donna Parsons December 4, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    so is this just the opposite of the Home Base Primary Program

  61. Jon Michael Atchley December 4, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Tried to get appointment for an ORB Scan scheduled thru Choice. Scan was requested by VA Surgeon preparing for eye surgery. Told Choice surgeon wanted scan within two weeks in order to operate. Choice asked me where I wanted to go for ORB Scan. First of all I didn’t even know what an ORB Scan was. I said as soon as possible anywhere. Received a call from Choice they were having trouble finding a facility to do Scan. Time went by. I then complained to local VAMC that it had been over a month and half. VA contacted Choice. Choice said they had been trying to contact me but couldn’t reach me at home or by cell. I never received any call from Choice and I had anxiously been awaiting the call. Found out that once you commit to Choice, VA can’t do any scheduling for you. I raised cain. Told VA I didn’t want anything to do with Choice. VA took over. The next day I had an appointment for the ORB Scan. This was now almost three months after the VA surgeon had needed the scan in order to operate.

  62. Betty December 4, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    My husband has been waiting over a month to schedule an appointment through the Choice Program. He still doesn’t have one. Every time they call they try to schedule one with a doctor more then 40 miles from our house. I can go to any Doctor under the Champva program, and can schedule my own appointments. Why isn’t there a program like that for the Vets? It works great. They need to schedule their own appointments where they want. The Choice Program doesn’t work.

  63. Dennis Larson December 4, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    This program is fraudulent as usual. I am 43 miles from the nearest complete facility. They opened a clinic within 25 miles which does not have lab facilities. It takes them a week to get the lab results back from a VA facility. So what happens is I have to go even further ( two fifty mile round trips instead of one 86 mile round trip) to get primary care. They use this clinic as an excuse to avoid me getting to use a local physician even though to get x-rays like I need now I have to drive at least 86 miles and take all day for one appointment. Same old BS, different day!

  64. QUINN REELS December 4, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    THIS 40 MILE THING IS CRAZY AND I PULLED OUT MY CARD AT A ER.THEY GAVE IT BACK AND I STILL GOT THE BILL

    • AR Brown December 5, 2015 at 6:15 am

      I have learned that you cannot use the Choice Care for ER. If you cannot get to a VA facility, tell them at the ER, to bill the VA. You do not have to pay at the ER, you can get care, and sort it out later as long as you can prove it was an emergency and you could not get to VA ER. You can secure message your doctor or call, leave a message that you are in a crisis. Just a thought based on my experience. Take care.

  65. Miguel Angel Guzman December 4, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Concerning the Choice Program, what happens to those thousands of service-connected disabled veterans who reside OUTSIDE the U.S.A.? It seems to me that those of us who reside outside the U.S. fit perfectly the criteria for use of the system:

    “Lives more than 40 miles driving distance from the closest VA medical facility with a full-time primary care physician;
    Needs to travel by air, boat or ferry to the VA medical facility closest to his/her home;
    Faces an unusual or excessive burden in traveling to the closest VA medical facility based on geographic challenges, environmental factors, a medical condition, the nature or simplicity or frequency of the care needed and whether an attendant is needed. Staff at the Veteran’s local VA medical facility will work with him or her to determine if the Veteran is eligible for any of these reasons”

    I have been told in the past by staff at the Miami VA hospital that those of us who reside outside the U.S. do NOT qualify because we “choose” to live in the respective countries, pardon me, but we ALL choose to live where we live, why the exception? If correct,this is wrong and unfair!

    An explanation would be in order.

    Thanks

    • Harry Hoopes December 4, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      You sound like total BS to me. Trying for more freebies?

  66. David E Willis December 4, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    I am trying to get into the mental health program, my PTSD has gotten worse since the Paris bombings, as I was in France in 1961 during the period of the Algerian bombings, and not the San Beranado shootings has made it worse as well.
    I am not watching as it all disturbs me.It seems that all my calls put mee in a circle.

    • Ann Larson December 4, 2015 at 11:47 pm

      So all vets who are wheel chair bound and under 65 should not be allowed in the Choice program? I think you forgot to think this thru.

    • Michael A. Fetcko December 5, 2015 at 5:55 am

      Spoken like a true Politician !

    • AR Brown December 5, 2015 at 7:04 am

      I too have similar concerns and PTSD challenges. It took me awhile to get everything organized in the VA system and I have accepted that information will not be consistent along the way. That’s how I manage that trigger, recognition of chaos. But, I know that if you reach out to the VA, you can start with the Crisis Line if that helps to get connected to a local VA facility. Or, contact the VA facilities and request VA means screening/eligibility. It takes time. It is challenging and can be a web of confusion. I have found the crisis line reps to be very helpful. But, once you get your primary care lined up, then you can get Mental Health care and if it takes longer than 30 days to get in and you qualify for Choice (other criterion involved), then your primary referring physician is the key. They manage whether or not you use Choice.

      If you use Choice, reach out to local Psychology/Psychiatry Offices to see if they accept Choice. You simply give them the Choice number and let their billing team find out if they use the program. Most doctors that already accept Medicare will accept Choice.

      Also, I have recruited two of my own doctors into the program. I am self reliant and do not trust that the Choice team understands where I live in order to find care within a reasonable distance to my home. That program is evolving and is meant to work. It can. But I have learned after much frustration, that the system and the staff are learning. And I have been very angry at times, but it triggers my stress response mechanism and I feel more in control when I circumnavigate the system to get the care I need. Reach out. You can get help. Take a break from the process from time to time, but stay the course. I hope this helps.

    • DannyG December 7, 2015 at 11:52 pm

      Mr. Willis, Take care of yourself, brother. We are all with you!

  67. James Muller December 4, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    I propose making the Choice option available to vets who are age 65 or over and have Medicare coverage for the following reasons:

    1). Help alleviate congestion and backlog at va facilities.
    2). Give vets a wider choice of doctors.
    3). A lot of vets in this age group have mobility issues and are eligible for choice anyway.
    4). The federal government already picks up most of the costs of Medicare and Va services.
    5). If there are too many vets in the over 65 category, up the age requirement to 70 or higher.

  68. Michael Lance December 4, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Well la-de-da, the VA pitched the veterans a bone. But a veteran still can not be approved for the choice program even though the nearest VA dermatologist is 120 miles away and there is one listed in the choice program 15 miles away, because there is a VA Clinic less than 40 miles away, but has no dermatologist.

    • AR Brown December 5, 2015 at 6:47 am

      Your primary physician can authorize you to use Choice. Thats the first step in all of this. Primary refers. Speciality clinic is available or not. If not, then go back to Primary to get authorization. Then you have to be sure the local Dermatilogist accepts Choice. I am not clear myself where the funding comes from, Medicare, or otherwise, but Choice uses three websites to find providers who participate. Medicare is one of them.

      So, first get primary referral. Then contact doctors office and speak to billing to see if they accept or are willing to accept the program. Have them call Choice if they accept and are interested. I know, I learned this along the way.

      Take care. I hope you get the care you need.

    • Eric Roberts December 6, 2015 at 8:50 pm

      That is not true. My VAMC is 50 miles and I have a VA Clinic where my primary care Doc is…they also do lab work there. They are maybe 10-15 miles away. I have a dermatology appointment with a local Dermatologist. I am not sure who told you that, but all I did is scheduled a visit with the Derm at Hines VAMC and then called the Choice program and requested a local resource and they got me an appointment. Yeah…sometimes they mess things up. I had one instance where I went o the eye doc for an eye exam and they found that I might have cataracts developing, so he wanted to do some more tests. They called the Choice program and got 3 different answers on how we had to proceed. It took me calling and breaking out my inner asshole to get it straight and then they called the eye doc and let them know what they needed to do. The tests came up negative, thank the gods!! But most of the time they have done it right. I guess like any system we create, there will be burps. I would look into it deeper…I think someone just didn’t have the right information and misinformed you.

    • Ronald Brovelli December 7, 2015 at 8:44 pm

      I was told that I was not eligible for choice program since my outpatient clinic is about 30 miles away from my home. I have no problem with that EXCEPT that the clinic is just that, an outpatient clinic. For any procedure, xray’s, mri’s, scan’s, dermatologists, etc etc I have to drive to Hines which is more than 40 miles away. With traffic, parking, I leave at least 2 hours before my appt arrival time which is 30 minutes before the actual appt time.
      My issue is that the people involved do not seem to be well versed in the qualifications, and to make it worse the qualifications are changing.

  69. harley mc dougall December 4, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    T was sent to an out side clinic for sonogram the results were not sent to PC doctor at VA i was billed for the service
    as was my Insurance company

  70. Lynn Folgate December 4, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Veterans Choice Program Problem explained as to why it took about three (3) months but it did get done.

    I Lynn K. Folgate a peace time veteran, with last four (redacted) address (redacted), Phone (redacted) experienced a problem with subject program as follows:

    1. Having realized it is time for my five year colonoscopy, I called the local VA clinic for an appointment on July 30, 2015. I was told there is now this new Veterans Choice Program which allows me to have the procedure done locally if I am more than 40 miles from the closest VA medical facility. (That would be 2600 Overlook Terrace, Madison, WI 53705 a distance of 65.8 road miles and 1 ½ hours to drive.) I was advised to wait 10 business days then call 1 866 606-8198.

    2. So I waited until August 13, 2015 then called the number to set up a date. (The closest VA facility for doing the colonoscopy is more than 50 miles away.) I spoke with a gal there, explained I was interested in setting a date for my colonoscopy and provided my name, birth date, address, social security number and my phone number (redacted). I then helped to select the closest non-VA medical facility as the FHN hospital in Freeport, IL located at 1026 W. Stephenson St., Freeport, IL 61032 with ‘phone number 1 815 599-6000. I was told to wait 5 to 7 days and I would be called back after I was accepted. (On August 20th. received by mail a poster on this program.)

    3. Not having received the call back on August 24th. which was the end of the 7 business days; I waited another week then called them on August 31st. This time I again gave the same information previously provided (Purpose, Name, birth date, address, and ‘phone number). The gal there then said, “This will be sent to the VA for consultation and when they approve it a schedule will be made”. I asked what is the status of my first call and why didn’t that get processed? She said she doesn’t know why the first attempt failed.

    4. So, now September 7th. it now it has been seven days and the VA has not yet called?

    5. Another 3 weeks has passed on this date of September 23, 2015 and still the VA has not called to provide me with a schedule. Since this has now been unreported for over four weeks it appears the request is lost. Therefore, this problem was turned over to my local VA in a visit I made in person. They said that it is in the hands of the Health Network and that I should call the same number that I started with: 1 866 606-8198. I provide a list of the record shown in steps 1 through 4 above and the guy at the VA office gave it back after he and the gal there had read it. I told him he could keep it and he said they have no way to file it. So, I told him to file it in “File 13”; he smiled and said okay.
    I then went home and called the number and got to Stacey and gave my identification. So, she put me on hold to check it out. She came back and said I have met the waiting time of 30 days and due to the long delay she will process it today or tomorrow and then I will receive a call when it has been scheduled with FHN on Stephenson St. She verified both the FHN and my ‘phone number shown below was on file.

    6. Then as luck would have it, I received a reminder from my local VA Clinic of the Flu shots to be available. Using this opportunity to comment as a reply to that e-mail, I noted that their original suggestions to use new Veterans Choice Program was not working since my original effort of July 30, 2015. From this I received an e-mail from Jennelle Buisker suggesting I could call a VA-Sit Champion-Madison at 608 280-1901 with 4 names and their extension numbers. (redacted) However, on my first call 10-1-2015 I was transferred to an automatic reply that said leave a message. The next day since I never received a call-back, I called again and again received the automatic message. Since the call back did not work, I used the option 5 to leave a call-back number. After I selected number 5 for leaving a call-back number, the line went dead?

    7. The next course of action is just to wait to see how long I need to wait for a call from one of them? So, now on October 12, 2015 I called 608 280-1901 to reach the VA Champion-Madison and was gain transferred to an automatic line. The automatic line said that number is not available please leave a call back number. Since that didn’t work I figured it again would be a waste of time.

    8. I will call the local VA again and talk to Jennelle Buisker on this day 10/12/2015 and explain the problem.

    9. Send a message to Jennell Buisker via VA Secure Messaging on 10/12/2015 explaining that the VA Champion-Madison number goes to an automatic messaging system and it neither calls back or accepts a call back number. At least it didn’t work on 10/2/2015 nor 10/12/15.

    10. October 13, 2015 called Madison VA at 608 256-1901 extension 17078 and talked to Lynne Sherman a Veteran’s Choice Champion. She will check it out and call me back. And she did call back two days later on October 15th. and gave me her personal phone number (redacted).

    11. October 15th. Lynne called and said that all forms have now been completed so I need to call that Veterans Choice Number 866-606-8198 to set up my colonoscopy. So, on this date I called the Veterans Choice Number and the gal there named Linda checked my records and said FHN has been contacted today and the nurse there will call me to set up an appointment.

    12. 10/19/2015 Received the letter from FHN as indicated above showing my schedule is set for Thursday, November 5th. at 8:45 am. I am to drink the 1 gallon of solution the day before and exclude Aspirin for three days prior and etc according to the letter received.

    13. 10/20/2015 I notified Jennell Buisker at the Freeport VA Clinic by secure messaging the all is finally set and a procedure is scheduled for November 5th. at 8:45 am with Dr. Vivek Mehta of FHN.

    14. 10/26/2015 Received recorded ‘phone message from FHN Admissions that said I need to call 815 599-6225 during the hours of M-F 8-5 pm. I called back and verified my: name, address and birth date with Debbie and specified that the procedure is to be covered by the VA not Advantra. She asked me to bring my insurance card and I explained I don’t have a card. For the VA I only use my last name and the last four of my social security number (redacted). So, she said to bring the brochure that I have on the Veterans Choice Program. However, I called again, got her Fax number (815 599-6417) and faxed in the Veterans Choice Program brochure and this two page report.

  71. richard j. finelli December 4, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    I have used the 30 day program because the optomotrist at my va clinic couldn’t get me to see a va doctor at syracuse within 30 days so i ended up at a specialist ,civilian at va expense. Now,I do go to suracuse,va facility after seeing a civilian doctor,because they could fit me in and schedule procedure after one visit! future arrangements have been made to continue at syracuse,n.y. facility.Program seems to be working correctly as expected ,VA is making improvements for the better and I am satisfied with treatment so far.

    • Deborah Winzer December 4, 2015 at 5:39 pm

      I was injured a year ago was over six months before VA agreed something was wrong. Was referred to choice program. Va isn’t approving test that are required. I has almost loss the use of arms completely,waiting on them. I can not work can not get any assistance and can not get through this system before referral runs out. Now my primary left. I got faster care on Medicaid however, they won’t pay to fix my problem it’s not covered. All of the medical and so called insurance and assistant programs are not working. Some people are making money,nobody getting a cure.

  72. Rosario R. Felice December 4, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    The choice program is worthless you call it take 4-6 weeks for a appointment then if the Dr. Refers you it takes another 4-6 weeks any told your time expired ! Then you call ! You have to go back to the Dr. To get referrals again & wow time runs out ! So why do anything it’s just (redacted) that someone not even a citizen can get free madical & get to Doctors anytime but us Veterans just are treated like crap my next appointment with the VA is in March I’ll wait even though I’ve got a lot of other medical problems ! I say the fix would be get the Saffing for our VA medical centers !

  73. Joseph W Esworthy,Jr. Esq. December 4, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    The VA should fire & replace Health Net as the agency that makes & schedules appointments for veterans. Every tine I have contacted them I have spent from 45 to 60 minutes on phone with them. When I call to follow up I need to start all over again giving them information what I am contacting about. I have waited over 30 days for Health Net to set uo appointments and they want me to travel over 40 miles to appointments.

    • Michael A. Fetcko December 5, 2015 at 5:50 am

      I agree with you Joe. Just another contractor that has no idea of Veteran’s staffed by a bunch of rude, incompetent civilians. Probably some politician’s croney who owns this organization. Went through the same thing recently. Had to go to my Congressman to kick them in the butt at VA to get it handled.

  74. Thomas Tamborski December 4, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Healthnet is in mass confusion! Call centers seem to not have all the information. I’ve called one call center was given authorization and another call center called me to tell me that they are still waiting for authorization! I have recieved a letter in the mail from Healthnet for a scheduled appointment a week AFTER the appointment! This has happened 3 times. I found out that a surgery foe was approved and I and my doctor was never notified. Nothing, they never notified anyone! The list goes on. The “snotty” attitude by some of the call center people are terrible. My opinion, IF the VA took all that money used to pay Healthnet and used it to hire more QUALIFIED a d skilled doctors I think we ALL would be futher ahead! I have kept track of all my conversations with the call centers. I have completed and submitted them to the VA, Healthnet and my local Senator and have not recieved any responce at all!

    • ralph mora December 4, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      The same thing happened to me so I had to wait four months for the original appointment. The folks ay Choice had no clue and consistently couldn’t find me in the system.

    • Robin Edwards December 6, 2015 at 10:29 am

      I live in the panhandle of Florida, specifically fort Walton beach. They told me that I had to drive to Mississippi for a mammogram, 2 states away from my home. What are they thinking??? Then they finally called to say that they could not see me within 30days and would out source me to a local provider, I saw them on August 24th 2015, I just received a letter from that provider asking for my help in getting the VA to pay, it’s now December. Why is it my burden to help them get paid, 4 months later???. My original VA choice card arrived last year. Subsequently, I received another VA choice program card stating “this was a temporary program “. Well, which is it??? I live in an area that only provides primary care and mental health. Both of which I use and am very happy with. My pri care doctor and I have discussed the restrictions and frustrations with the VA and the Choice program. The next closest facility is Pensacola, which is 44 miles from my home, with that said, I am eligible to go to an outside provider. That was a qualifier under the original Choice program. They denied me the choice over 4miles. Due to no highway, it takes me 1 hour and 15 minutes one way. I have had 3 total knee replacements on the same leg, 2007, 2010 and 2012. The surgery in 2012, caused a major infection, which required additional surgeries. I’ve had a total of 9 surgeries in n my right leg. When I moved to Florida, I requested a referral to ortho, that again is in Pensacola, after not hearing anything for 3 weeks, I called ortho in Pensacola, they told me that my referral had been dismissed, I was floored!!! I used my Tricare for life and went to a local provider. They did a full body nuclear medicine scan. The report stated that I have osteomyelitis, which in laymen terms says my knee cap is dead, due to the infection I got from the VA hospital in 2012. This would never have been discovered because the VA dismissed my referral to ortho. I’m now back in physical therapy 3 times a week. I have no faith in the VA Choice program. I can’t get through to them via the phone, there is no way to email them, ect. ect. They “New” expansion to the VA choice program is a joke, honestly there really isn’t anything new, unless I chose to live off the grid in Alaska!!! Please feel free to contact me, I am a plethora of useless VA knowledge!!! Not only is the choice program impossible to use, the Gulf Coast Veterans Health care system is broken. Doctors have no freedoms to provide appropriate care and the expectations of driving to Mississippi from Florida is unacceptable!!!

    • Thomas Whittingham December 7, 2015 at 10:16 am

      I went to a local hospital because something was not right with me . I was taken to a exam room and told to strip and put on a gown. I sat on the gurney after doing so and the next thing I know I am waking up two days later in a different hospital with all kinds of tubes and electrodes . Turns out I died in the local hospital and they life flighted me out to a hospital to save my life. When I became coherent enough I told them I get all my health care done at the VA and could I use the veterans choice program? Bottom line claim was denied because it was not service related . VETERAN BEWARE you will be responsible for the bill.

  75. Lynne Williams December 3, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    I am grateful for improvements to the Veterans Choice program that have recently been made. One problem still has to be fixed and one new one has been created. While making the 40 mile rule from a facility having a full-time primary care physician helps, vets still have to frequently travel much further than 40 miles to the nearest facility offering specialty care. And leaving the determination of who is eligible to local VA staff greatly concerns me. Which “staff”? My experience is, except for the Choice Champion, most VA staff members including doctors, nurses, schedulers, etc. have very little understanding of the Choice program and how it works. So how are they going to determine who is eligible? And will the Third Party Administrators, Health Net and TriWest, accept a “staff” member’s recommendation?

    • Judy Bailey December 4, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      Well, the choice program did not work for my husband. He needed a procedure done and it was 6 weeks out so we were given the choice program. After several calls, having spoke to differenti choice representatives the information was finally put in. We were told we would get a call back when they located a provider. I received no calls, but I called several times and each time the representative had no idea what I was talking about and could not find my husband’s information that was assured to me on one other call. I document time, date, who I talk to and what information I am given. I am glad I did not cancel the original appointment which is 217 miles from where we live because the choice program never called us. So, CHOICE FOR VETS has a lot to be desired and money for this program sure filled someone’s pocket.

    • Jerry lee Tennant December 5, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      Do they really expect CBOC staff to take the time to deal with the”Choice Program”? First, they won’t do anything that puts their jobs in jeopardy like taking patients away. Secondly, my PCP seldom has the time or inclination to see or talk to me at all. It is difficult to get appointments scheduled or prescriptions filled on time. There is NO REAL to treat veterans since it is cheaper to bury us than treat our medical problems. I have ALL the symptoms of kidney cancer and have been passing blood and clots thru urine going on 19 months now. I”see” my urologist every 6 months for 21/2 minutes after driving 160 miles round trip. The VA recently rated me as “home bound” because of my health problems but the choice program just tells me that I don’t qualify. IMHO the program is just for good press.

  76. Allie December 2, 2015 at 7:12 am

    They still have not addressed the issues for when a procedure is ordered by a VA provider that is not provided “in house” and the veteran has to seek treatment in the local community. The VA has a full staff of schedulers available to make these appointments but since this Veterans Choice Program has been in place it has been taken out of the local VA’s hands and all the funding that goes with it and given to the Choice program. What most veterans do not realize is, IF a consult is placed by a VA provider for a procedure that is not provided “in-house” at the VA such as a mammogram it will need to be done locally at the VA’s expense NOT yours because prior to the VA calling you to schedule that consult has been approved for VA pay. DO NOT let the Choice program tell you otherwise!! Or if they ask if you have other forms of payment because the VA is broke DO NOT give it to them!! The Choice Program not only got all the local VA funding monies for local procedures but they get paid for each veteran they make an appointment for!! So remember ANYTIME a procedure is ordered by the VA that can’t be done at the VA it will be completely covered at VA EXPENSE not yours!!

    If you ever have any trouble scheduling appointments through the choice program call your local VA Patient Service Rep because those people at the choice program can be quite rude!! Also most of those that work at the choice progam have no idea of what they are scheduling so don’t let them bully you!! Remember those at Choice are NOT…VA employees it’s only a call center!!

    I wish all of you good luck with the worst system ever created!!

    • Herbert Dean Huseland December 4, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      If you are getting travel reimbursement in two weeks that is twice as fast as I get mine in Spkane, WA.

      • maria torres December 4, 2015 at 4:20 pm

        We were told to call the patient services rep too, after waiting 6 weeks for an appointment to be given, that still has not been done. I have never heard this term. Who is this person and where do we find them???

        • G Kelsey December 9, 2015 at 7:07 am

          It is a patient services ADVOCATE you are looking for. They are in every VAMC and clinics. You can find their #’s at the VAMCs website. Go to http://www.va.gov click on find a local facility and there is a link for patients. You can request your records. And get the # to patient advocate. All else fails your local/regional congressman is always glad to help.
          EX VA Employee New Orleans, LA

      • TERRY FERKEL December 4, 2015 at 7:31 pm

        Even worse then Ostinko care?

      • CARY MAY December 5, 2015 at 10:30 am

        The Dallas VA has some great Orthopedic doctors and nurses. The Hospital staff is a bunch of lazy people drawing a paycheck. I had surgery on my right shoulder at the Dallas VA, and about 2:00AM a nurse came in to change my Morphine drip, WHILE TALKING ON HER CELL PHONE, and I said “TIMEOUT-Get off your phone or don’t change my Morphine drip bag” She got pissed and said “I’ll just get someone else to do it, and about 10:00am – 8 hours later, I got a new one. They showed me who is running the place. I called the director and talked to his EXC Assist, and she acted like “OH WELL”. I called my Congressman and told the VA Rep there what happened and in about 30 minutes two guys from the Hospital EXC Office came and asked me who did that and I told them to go and check the nurses log and find out. They acted like I was in the wrong and they gave me excuses on how the staff is over worked and they are short on people. I said that has nothing to do with changing a Morphine Bag and talking on the cell phone!!! I could go on and on about the people out there. And never wear an Anti Obama Shirt as my file got lost when I did. Luckily I had signed into a department and the lady just couldn’t figure out where my file was!!! BS-SHE FILED IT SO I HAD TO WAIT FOR OVER TWO HOURS WHILE OTHER PEOPLE WHO CAME IN AFTER ME GOT SEEN!!!!

      • Wayne Fisher December 8, 2015 at 1:20 pm

        They still don’t get it. What good is using the Primary Care locations when all the important appointments are at a centralized medical facility? My example is the Primary Care Nurse is 26 miles away so I’m not eligible for the Choice Program, but the appointments, other than routine lab work or cold symptoms, is in Iowa City, which is 78 miles away. I have 95% of my appts in Iowa City but they use the Primary Care location to determine eligibility. That is, to be blunt, stupid. If not stupid then it’s a willful obstruction to the intent of the law. So, today, I drove to Iowa City for a cardiology appt. It lasted 15 minuets but I spent 3 hours in the car. Tomorrow I have two more appts in Iowa City. I have a hospital with attached clinic 10 mins from my house. I should be allowed to use that facility.

    • Rita Nolan December 4, 2015 at 9:22 pm

      I agree! I was to schedule a mammogram and the Choice staff was very rude and stated that they could not schedule an appointment at the very establishment my provider told me was the place to go. I didn’t schedule the mammogram because after 15 min on the phone with the Choice staff, they till couldn’t figure it out and tried to blame me for their ineptness. Luckily my primary care provider, followed up a few months later and asked about the mammogram. When I told them about my experience, they made an appointment with the facility for me. When I asked if I could fill out a customer survey or report the Choice program for their rude and inept representative, all I got was radio silence!!

    • Felix Galaviz December 7, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      I had been waiting for a Sleep Apnea machine for about a year. Then in October 2014, I learned about the choice program. I called them and was immediately put on a eligibility track. It took another Six months to schedule a Sleep Apnea test with a doctor near my home. However, once it was approved and processed through the Choice Program, it moved rapidly. I’m very happy with my machine and the Choice Program.
      Lastly, while the process is slow, the wait is worth it. I see the sleep Apnea server very near my home and they are available when I call them.

      Don’t lose faith,Bro’s, move it forward…
      Felix Galaviz

  77. Patrick jahnke December 2, 2015 at 12:04 am

    Will thier are so.e thing work with va , no work, be been choose program may it works for me and 3 other veteran in my area my doc trying and doing his best, va is slow on some things my doc got them surgery was needed on the out side, meds I still don’t understand. Va refused give narcotics drug out. After prove the pain clinic thier quacks on some of their ways cure pain, and doc refused to ccc the vet, under new law u cc doc once a month renew meds, I can’t even ccc my va doctor he’s book 29 days out . so I call choices doc I get in get treatment enjoy life , it does work in some areas I understand, other it doesn’t. Just do ur best those clinic need to understand payment are slow, that hold it in some cases , but I wish va travel get off thier asses it taking 2 weeks for payment to us vets

    • William Ira Henley December 4, 2015 at 8:36 pm

      Try getting a prescription filled lmao.Its a joke when the VCP do toe preceding a you medicine and the VA won’t fill it without a shot load of RED TAPE Attached.Bunch of bull(redacted)

    • j a dyer December 4, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      WHAT A JOKE. GOT QUALIFED FOR CHOICE BECAUSE VA WOULD’T SEE ME FOR 60 DAYS. NEVER GOT HELP FOR MY CONCERN AT ALL. EXCEPT FOR YOUR MONEY BEING USED FOR NOTHNG, THANKS FOR NOTHING…

    • A Miller December 5, 2015 at 11:26 am

      I have been unable to get a CHOICE person in Fayetteville to return my call and am unable to see a VA doctor until end of January, though I have been a registered disable veteran since 1992 and registered at Fayetteville VAMC in September after transferring w employer to this location. The CHOICE will only work if the VA works by staffing people to work the area, by constantly recruiting doctors to participate and by following up with the veterans directly. Thus far this simply more publicized lip service that is failing privately.

    • A Miller December 5, 2015 at 11:31 am

      I have been unable to get a CHOICE person in Fayetteville to return my call and am unable to see a VA doctor until end of January, though I have been a registered disabled veteran since 1992 and registered at Fayetteville VAMC in September after transferring w employer to this location. The CHOICE will only work if the VA works by staffing people to work the area, by constantly recruiting doctors to participate and by following up with the veterans directly. Thus far this simply more publicized lip service that is failing privately.

    • G. Pannett December 5, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      Veteran’s Choice program has been a nightmare for me. It is impossible to contact anyone and no one will call you back. The local medical facility receives authorization for treatment in writing and when the treatments are completed the deny payment to the care taker. That puts the veteran in a position to have to pay for all medical care that was provided locally. The veteran receives the non-authorized letter and the VA contact information is wrong and there are no answers for the veteran. Be prepared to pay your own medical bills under the Veterans Choice program. Where are the overseers? This program should be cancelled. I intend to reach out to my legislator!

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