Changes coming to VA Choice program; More veterans will be eligible
The Department of Veteran Affairs announced this week a change to the Veterans Choice Program, one that will affect many local veterans.
“The change involves how the VA looks at the distance from a facility,” explained Dawson County Veteran Service Officer Steve Zerr. “Instead of using a 40 mile radius from the closest facility the VA will now use 40 miles driving distance.”
The policy change will be made through regulatory action in the coming weeks. The Veterans Choice Program was authorized by the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), with veterans receiving their Choice cards starting in November.
“VA has worked very quickly to implement the Veterans Choice Program and we appreciate the constructive feedback shared by Veterans and our partners to help us improve service to Veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert McDonald. “We’ve determined that changing the distance calculation will help ensure more Veterans have access to care when and where they want it. VA looks forward to the ongoing support of our partners as we continue to make improvements to this new program.”
The method of determining driving distance will be through distance as calculated by using a commercial product. The change is expected to roughly double the number of eligible Veterans.
The Veterans Choice Program is a new, temporary benefit that allows eligible Veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. Veterans seeking to use the Veterans Choice Program should call 1-866-606-8198 to confirm their eligibility and to schedule an appointment. Since the Choice Program went into effect on November 5, 2014, more than 45,000 medical appointments have been scheduled.
“When the program was rolled out in November, only veterans living in and around the Cozad area were eligible through the 40 mile radius rule,” said Zerr. “With the latest change, the line should move back to around the Lexington area and include Gothenburg.”
The VA has community based outpatient clinics in North Platte and Holdrege which serve the Dawson County area. Not all services are available at these clinics but primary care starts there according to Zerr.
VA is enhancing its health care system and improving service delivery to better serve Veterans and set the course for long-term excellence and reform. VA has made significant progress in various areas of the legislation, such as extending the Assisted Living/Traumatic Brain Injury Pilot program and Project Arch, to expand timely access to high-quality health care for Veterans.
If veterans have more questions about the Veteran Choice Card program they can log onto www.va.gov/opa/choiceact or contact the Dawson County Veteran Service Office at 308-324-3041.