Veteran Points Out Why The VA’s “Veterans Choice” Is No Choice At All
Editor’s Note: The following is an account of an actual Vietnam Veteran who has been a faithful contributor here for several years. When you read this, consider that he is not the only veteran who has served and is being given this kind of treatment. For how he was treated concerning arms, take a look here.
Yes, yet another way the Veterans Affairs mistreats the Veterans that give them the job. Let me begin with this to all, I am a 100% Disabled Vietnam Veteran and do not have insurance because the costs were going too high and I had coverage because I worked for the Government! Anyway, I have had several problems with Veterans Affairs over the years and they seem to get it right and just when everything is working fine, they come up with new rules that make it harder for not just me but all Veterans living over 50 miles from the main Veterans Affairs hospitals.
To begin with many believe that Veterans have a choice on how they get and receive their care, called “Veterans Choice.” That is not the case because the VA has found a way to circumvent Veterans obtaining good care if they live outside of 50 miles from a major VA care center. In the true sense of the idea, the Veteran has NO choice. Now you may wonder how that can be when President Trump and the Veterans Affairs Director state over and over about Veterans having a choice of their Doctors and treatment, but this is a huge LIE.
I will show this in detail why it is a huge Lie and why the Veterans Affairs seem to wish to screw with the Veterans that served our nation. Now you must be wondering just how can they be doing this to the Veterans when President Trump and the VA Director Shulkin both stated that Veterans will be able to have a choice for their care. This is where the VA with their rules have worked out a way to “FORCE” Veterans to either accept the way they are treated or get their own doctors and treatment from their insurance provider. Now that you are wondering about how they do this, I will use my most recent treatment as an example.
I injured my hip just before Thanksgiving but it seemed to get better until recently. I made an appointment with the Doctor in the “CLINIC” that ONLY has the Doctor at the location. After seeing the Doctor, he said I needed an X-Ray and it would have to be done in New Orleans, which is some 76 miles from my home. I asked why the X-rays could not be taken at the local hospital less than 10 minutes from the Clinic, they said they did not have a contract with them. Here is where it gets real interesting due to the weird ideology of the Veterans Affairs.
I only have two choices, both of which seem totally crazy when a hospital that can take the X-Rays is just minutes from the “Clinic”, you will see why I quoted Clinic shortly. The first choice I have is not really a choice but a “Forceful” way to keep from paying me travel time to and from the New Orleans VA Hospital in New Orleans, I can take a shuttle which leaves the “CLINIC” at 6:30am and comes back at 3:00pm. Using that choice, I have to get up at 5:30am and forget about what I have to do around my house that morning and day, board the Shuttle with other Veterans and travel the 76 miles to the New Orleans VA. After going there about 2 hours later, I go to my X-ray have it done and this takes about 30 minutes, then I have to sit around for about 4 hours before the shuttle leaves at 12 noon and get back to the “CLINIC” at around 3:30pm. I leave there and arrive home at about 4:30, that is some 11 hours for an X-Ray I could do in less than 10 minutes from the VA “CLINIC”!
The second choice is using my own vehicle to get to the VA in New Orleans, which allows me time to do what must be done at home then leave at my own pace. I get in my vehicle and travel to the VA in New Orleans. This takes me approximately 2 hours to get to the VA in New Orleans. I go to check in to get the X-ray, (REMEMBER, this would only take less then 10 minutes if the VA had a contract with the local hospital); the time to check in get the X-Ray done is about 30 to 45 minutes. I get done with the X-Ray and leave the VA in New Orleans and arrive back home in about 2 hours from the time I left the VA, for a total of some 5 hours. Remember if the VA had a Contract with the local hospital I could have gone there and had the X-Ray done in less then 2 hours!
This all seems like nothing, but by taking my truck I cannot get Travel Pay for my travel to the VA because the “CLINIC” has a shuttle. I have now used my own vehicle to go take an X-Ray that could have been done less than 10 minutes from the VA “CLINIC”. Because the VA has a Shuttle, I lose the Travel Pay because I Choose not to take the shuttle! Therein lies the catch 22. The VA has designed a rule that if they have a “CLINIC” less then 50 miles from your house they do not have to pay “Travel Pay”!
Now one has to wonder how is that possible? The Veterans Affairs has set up a shuttle that “Forces” those with transportation to either use the shuttle or go to New Orleans on their own and not get paid for what otherwise would be done. What makes this even worse is that the procedure could have been done the day it was ordered less than 10 minutes away! The VA can do this because it has a “CLINIC” in the town that is nearly 76 miles from New Orleans. Now is the time I explain why the “CLINIC” was set up this way.
The “CLINIC” is staffed with Contract workers who get paid by the VA. This “CLINIC” is a convenience for the Veterans that need to be checked up on from time to time, it is also a huge convenience for the VA. Since the “CLINIC” is in the town, the VA deduces that the Veterans will Have to use the shuttle to get to X-Rays, MRI’s, Cat Scans and so on and specialty doctors in New Orleans. Rather than set up the use of the hospital that is less than 10 minutes away, the VA Forces the Veterans to travel to New Orleans for the visit rather then setting up doctors, X-Rays, MRI’s, Cat Scans, and other tests that the Veteran may need at a local hospital. This sets up the Veteran to be “Forced” to go to New Orleans for tests that could be performed at their local hospitals.
This does not happen just at New Orleans, but every big Veterans Affairs Hospitals across the country. In essence, the Veterans do not receive proper treatment when they have to travel using the Shuttle that in most cases takes from 10 or more hours to complete the travel that could be done locally for a lot less. Why does the VA do this? Because in New Orleans, the VA built a huge facility that has to have big numbers of Veterans going there to keep it viable. It is a number game and the Veterans are the numbers and the care is the game.
Keeping all this in mind, one can easily see that the VA has placed a burden upon Veterans by sending them to the big cities for care when the Veterans could receive care much closer to home. The Veteran does not have a “CHOICE” because the VA set the system up not to provide good care, but to make the numbers needed to keep the big city VA Hospitals in line for money. This makes the Veteran a pawn to the VA by “Forcing” the Veteran to go to a hospital that is many miles beyond the 50-mile limit just to satisfy the use of a shuttle. If the VA had contracts with local hospitals to provide the care it would diminish the numbers it shows that visit the big city VA Hospitals, making the Veteran a tool to obtain more money for the big city facilities.
It may seem that this is about travel money, but that is not true, it is about being able to have a Real Choice to go to the local hospital for care that it provides and takes less than an hour to go to. To be sure “Forcing” the Veteran to use the VA Facility instead of the closest hospital, which in most cases has the type of tests that can be done less than 50 miles from most homes, has diminished the “Veterans Choice” program. If that is the Veterans Choice program, it needs a lot of improvement.
In closing, I have to state that the VA may retaliate against me for exposing this terrible action, it has happened before. I cannot sit still and be “FORCED” to abide to the VA’s way of operating. Veterans from all across the nation should have the “CHOICE” of going to the local hospital rather than the big city VA for tests, especially when the local hospital is less than 10 minutes from the clinic. In some cases, the “CLINIC” is across the street from a local hospital but the Veteran has to go to the big city VA! This is no way to treat our Veterans no matter who or where they live. It is our hope that this article will make its way to the White House and the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs so they can see that the “Veterans Choice” program is being Circumvented just to raise numbers of the big city VA hospitals. It must be stopped and the VETERAN should have the choice to go to the local hospital for tests that can be done there.