MIDLAND-ODESSA, TX (KWES) - The Veterans Choice Program is aimed at making health care more convenient for local vets, but since the launch of it, vets say things have just gotten harder. Wednesday night at the Veterans Choice Healthcare Initiative meeting in Midland, upset veterans made sure their voices were heard.
The Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act (VACAA) was enacted by congress in August of 2014. The goal of the act was to improve health care for veterans, but the new program has since caused headaches for many vets. Now the TriWest Healthcare Alliance, in charge of Veterans Choice, is getting to the root of the problem.
Teresa Asante, a concerned veteran did an interview with NewsWest 9 in June, expressing her concerns with the Veterans Choice program. Asante was enrolled in the program and found out that her appointments had been canceled. Asante says there also weren't any doctors in the area to provide the care she needed, so, she decided to fight the fight that many other veterans have also been dealing with.
"There's a lot of veterans who are just tired of fighting, so I need to fight for them, I need to make it matter," said Asante.
Raymond Boswell, a local veteran, said, "I hope that the system changes to benefit the veteran. The veteran earned this care I've been to combat three times, I've earned this."
To be eligible for Veterans Choice you need to live over 40 miles from the nearest VA facility. You are also eligible if your scheduled appointments are more than 30 days out. One of the major issues was getting the correct information out to local vets from TriWest and the local VA hospitals.
Patrick Shipley, the Southwest Regional Director of TriWest Healthcare Alliance, said, "Hopefully the veterans will give us an opportunity, with our VA partners, to go ahead and to work out the kinks and get the program running as smoothly as possible."
To receive care through veterans choice, you need to meet these three requirements:
First vets need to get a consultation from their doctors. Then they need to opt-in to the program using the choice card that was sent to them in the mail. Lastly veterans need to notify TriWest that they are eligible for the program.
Forest Matthews, a local veteran, was pleased with the information that was given in the meeting, saying, "He explained it explicitly and we enjoyed his speech on telling us how to operate the thing, and it looked like we can get some use out of it. He's a fine help to the organization and we appreciate him very much and thank him very much."