During the first week of November, the VA sent out the first batch of Veterans Choice Cards to veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is making good on a promise to get veterans into appointments more quickly, especially those who live far from medical facilities or have waited too long for appointments.
During the first week of November, the VA sent out the first batch of Veterans Choice Cards to veterans who are eligible because of where they live: more than 40 miles from a facility, must travel extra miles to get around bodies of water or mountains, or must travel by plane or boat to get to a facility.
During the third week of November, the second batch went out. These went to veterans who were waiting more than 30 days either from their preferred appointment date or past the date they should have been seen as determined by their doctor. Costs will be covered only for VA-approved physician-ordered care.
This effort is part of the new Accelerated Care Initiative, wherein opportunities for care have been increased through mobile medical units and having clinics open more hours on more days (evenings plus weekends).
Here are some of the stats the VA holds out as proof the program is working:
• Wait times for primary care for new patients has been reduced by 18 percent nationwide.
• Ninety-eight percent of appointment dates preferred by the veteran or his doctor have been completed.
• More than 1 million authorizations for care outside the VA system were granted, which is nearly a 50 percent increase over the past year, and which will be increased even more by the latest batches of care cards.
For more information about the Choice Program or to schedule an appointment for non-VA care, call 866-606-8198. To see more information, including eligibility, go online to www.va.gov/opa/choiceact.
Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to [email protected].