Finding official information about the implementation of the Veterans’ Choice Cards and call centers has been frustrating but I can now report that Tri-West and Health Net have been hired to administer the program. Health Net’s press release, Tri-West’s press release, and Secretary McDonald’s blog post were not released until yesterday, November 5th, the deadline. We posted about these companies last month. I’m going to cut the VA a little slack today because the people who have been working on this have probably been burning the midnight oil. We now have a few precious specifics. For example, Secretary McDonald writes:
The Choice Card will be issued in three phases. The first group of Choice Cards along with a letter explaining eligibility for this program is currently being sent to Veterans who may live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The next group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent shortly thereafter to those Veterans who are currently waiting for an appointment longer than 30-days from their preferred date or the date determined to be medically necessary by their physician.
The final group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent between December 2014 and January 2015 to the remainder of all Veterans enrolled for VA health care who may be eligible for the Choice Program in the future.
The contracts with Tri-West and Health Net also make sense because the VA just had to modify existing contracts with the two firms.
The VA has also released a very simple app, Veterans Choice Explorer, that asks yes/no eligibility questions. 1. Are you enrolled in the VA for healthcare benefits? 2. Were you enrolled on or before August 1, 2014? 3. Are you unable to schedule an appointment with a VA provider within 30 days? If YES, “Based on your responses, you may be eligible for benefits under the Veterans Choice program.” And a toll-free number is provided: 866-606-8198.
If you answered NO (not enrolled), you get a new set of eligibility questions: 2. Was your date of discharge from the military less than five (5) years ago? If you answer NO to question 2, you’re out of luck; answer YES and proceed. 3. Did you serve in a theater of operations after November 11, 1998 (e.g. Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn)? If you answered NO, bye. 4. Do you travel by air, boat, or ferry to reach your VA medical facility? YES and you’re in.
Now this question is somewhat deceptive; they should give as an example the 40-mile condition. Instead they give an uncommon example. 5. Do you face an unusual or excessive travel burden (i.e. you cannot travel to a local VA due to a body of water or land barrier that cannot be crossed by road or highway)? Yes, you’re probably good. No, maybe. This group of veterans can enroll by phone.
The app is too simplistic. For example, if you need to see a cardiologist, you don’t have to wait 30 days for an appointment. But we are finally getting details in dribs and drabs. So for today, and today only, how satisfied am I with the VA Media Room strategists? Not satisfied; somewhat satisfied; satisfied, or very satisfied? I’m satisfied because they honored the due date and the news is pretty encouraging for thousands vets.
Ed.note I’m getting the same kid gloves treatment from the VA dental clinic at American Lake up here in the other Washington. I called up November 2nd @ ODark30 and did my usual request for a teeth cleaning. As usual, she said “The earliest we have sir is January 9th, 2015. I said that wouldn’t work because I have to have my HCV-infested choppers polished every 90 days. Since they normally only schedule from 30 days out, we are forced to call in on the first of the month or the first Monday. January 9th would put me 39 days over my 90 day cycle. I happened to mention that if they are, by chance, over 30 days out, rumor from Call me Bob had it that we could go to the private sector on VA’s nickel. She admitted as much and promptly set me up with my old dentist that is repairing all their other mistakes over the last six years. I now have 6 appts. in less than a month where I was only given one in 14 months due to VA “scheduling snafus” which, fortunately no longer infest the system. Funny when the VA scheduling gal realized I was onto the 30 days or 30 miles warranty, the story changed that they hadn’t been doing business like that (having to call on the month you hoped to get the appt. in) in years… Man they must really think we are Flat Earth Society members.