VA, Congress taking steps to address VA Choice program

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The US Department of Veterans Affairs has recommended new legislation to Congress that would, among other things, overhaul the VA Choice program.

The program was created by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama as a way to give veterans faster access to specialty care. The program came on the heels of revelations that veterans were waiting months to see a specialist at many VA hospitals.

Under the current program, veterans qualify to see a private doctor through VA Choice if they would have to wait more than 30 days to see the same specialist at a VA hospital or if they live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility.

But WBTV has uncovered a number of problems with the program dating back to February 2016.

Among other things, veterans have called WBTV for help after having surgery through the VA Choice program claiming they are not able to get the required post-surgery rehabilitation because it was never authorized.

Medical practices have had to stop accepting VA Choice patients because they were not getting paid to see veteran patients.

In October, the VA proposed the Veterans Coordinated Access & Rewarding Experiences (CARE) Act to the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees. According to the VA, the legislation aims to change the way the VA Choice program currently operates to a more streamlined criteria.

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