The number of veterans utilizing the option to seek private health care through the Choice Card program has fallen short of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) expectations. VA Secretary Robert McDonald said that to date, only 27,000 veterans have made appointments with private practice doctors through the Choice Card program, which began in November 2014.
The Choice Card allows veterans who have been waiting for a VA medical care appointment for more than 30 days, or veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA medical center, to seek care from a private practice. This program was developed in response to the 2014 wait list scandal where multi-month wait times were the norm. Many veterans’ surviving spouses spoke out, saying their loved one had passed away before he or she could get a VA health care appointment.
According to the VA, over nine million veterans, servicemembers, and their family still rely on VA health care. In addition to creating the Choice Card program, the VA has placed an emphasis on hiring more doctors and nurses to fill the shortages they say caused the appointment delays. National VA data show that more than 37 million health care appointments were completed between May 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014 – a 1.8 million appointment increase from the same time period in 2013.
The VA also authorized 45 percent more private care appointments from May 1, 2014 to January 31, 2015 in comparison with the same timeframe a year prior. Veterans are still reluctant to seek outside medical care, as it still takes several months to receive the reimbursement from the VA.
Obtaining regular medical care is a critical part of documenting your service-connected disability. Even if you do not have any ongoing medical conditions, regular physicals and annual exams should be a part of your yearly routine to keep good health and identify any problems as early as possible. If you have been diagnosed with a disabling condition connected to your military service, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. For help with your VA disability benefits claim, contact Veterans Help Group® today at 1-855-855-8992.