By Sara Heath
April 11, 2018 – The Acting Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie has called on Congress to vote on a revised version of the Veterans Choice Program targeted at improving patient access to care.
Veterans Choice, which was enacted four years ago following the wait time scandal at the Phoenix, Arizona, VA, allows veterans facing extraordinary barriers to healthcare access to visit a third-party healthcare provider.
Veterans facing long travel distances, travel barriers, a wait time of over 30 days, or who need a procedure not offered in a VA facility may notify the VA of their needs. The VA will help arrange for that veteran to receive the same care at a non-VA hospital.
However, the Choice Program has faced numerous hurdles since its inception in 2014. A March 2017 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) showed that veterans participating in the Choice Program face wait times of up to 81 days, far exceeding the 30-day threshold the agency says it upholds in treatment access cases.
A complex approval process – which includes vetting from VA and third-party providers – makes for the long wait period, GAO