…a program rolled out to give certain veterans the option of government-funded private care is experiencing serious bumps: according to reports, only 27,000 vets have taken advantage of the Choice Card program since it was launched in November.
Technically, to be eligible to see a non-VA doctor, a veteran must be at least 40 miles away from the nearest VA hospital, or have waited at least 30 days for an appointment.
Which is bad enough, but it’s a clear rule, one that even bureaucrats can understand.
Air Force veteran Pat Baughman, for example, told Fox News he lives about 50 miles away from the nearest VA hospital in Bay Springs, MS—approximately a one-hour drive. But when Baughman called the Choice Card phone number last November, he was told to drive more than three hours away to a hospital in Natchez, MS.
“It didn’t make sense at all. I told them that’s longer than what I’m driving now. So they said they’d get back with me,” Baughman said, adding he received a call the next day and was told to drive to another location instead—two hours away.
One area of confusion is that according to the rules, a veteran must be 40 miles away from the nearest VA—”as the crow flies.”
Of course, the VA’s rules writers know that roads—especially rural ones—don’t follow straight paths.
And there’s Paul Walker, a veteran living in Minnesota and fighting cancer.
[H]e was turned down for private care for cancer treatment because there was a VA clinic within 20 miles of his home—but the closest VA hospital which offers the treatment he needs reportedly is more than 50 miles away.
“I tried using it and I got flatly turned down,” said Walker, who told the network that at the clinic, “all they do is dental work there and eye work and some basic kinds of different minor things…but I have cancer stage 4.”
And Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R, KS), with 63 counties and no VA hospital in his district:
I got an email by a veteran who drives 340 miles one way for cardiology.
These don’t appear to be isolated cases: that low number of signups, for instance. VA’s bureaucrats surely know these weaknesses in their rules and in their implementation of their rules; plainly these failures are the result of VA bureaucratic foot-dragging.