Few Veterans Are Using Private Health Care Options

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 11:50pm
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(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ News)
Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released numbers on how many vets are taking advantage of private health care options. This program was made available last year after a nationwide scandal uncovered delays in patient care.

There are two categories of vets eligible for health care outside of the VA. One is veterans who live more than 40 miles from any VA facility. And the second is vets who have waited more than 30 days for an appointment.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald said since its inception, the Veterans Choice Act has generated half a million calls which has translated into only 30,000 appointments.

“We want more people in the program," McDonald said. "And I think if you see our public service ad you’ll see demonstrated that is our intent. And we have got to figure out why they aren’t there.”

He said given the option, some patients prefer to keep going to the VA.

Dan Caldwell with Concerned Veterans for America knows why people aren’t using the card. He said many veterans don’t qualify because that 40-mile restriction includes any VA facility.

“For example in a place like Show Low, Arizona which is hundreds of miles away from a VA hospital in Prescott or in Phoenix, [but] because they have a community based outpatient clinic there that is open a few days a week, most veterans in the Show Low area cannot use the choice card to access private health care options that might be closer to them," Caldwell said. 

The veteran’s choice program is estimated to cost congress up to $12 billion over three years. 


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