Although there is no mention of the Veterans’ Choice program in my husband’s recent non-VA care denial letter, our “geographical hardship” plea fell on deaf ears at the White River Junction VHA. They received a pulmonary consult and treatment request from his sharp PC doc at the Burlington Clinic. We were able to specify (using secure messaging) exactly which local pulmonary specialist we wanted to see at UVM; that request was forwarded to WRJ–but all for naught.
WRJ VA works with Dartmouth (NH) and has good doctors. That is not the issue. The issue is accessibility. Why should we drive 200 miles round-trip? We’re talking an all-day proposition. Here’s the text since my scan isn’t too good:
“This letter is in regards to denial of the recently submitted consult for VA payment of non-VA medical care. VA Regulations require that VA facilities must be utilized whenever possible unless there is a valid medical reason why they cannot.”
We are not going to appeal this decision but we will call and find out if this denial letter is a blanket Veterans’ Choice denial, as well as a non-VA care denial. It was a test case since we felt it more prudent to use Medicare given that the VA is ruining veterans’ credit scores by paying slow.
I suppose we should complain to our senators, Leahy and Sanders, and to our one lonely representative, Peter Welch, about this on-going barrier to local non-VA care. Add our voices to the choir. They got rid of the “as the crow flies” rule but local specialized care is still a pipe dream. (In fact, some VT vets have to travel to the Boston VHA for care–a congested traffic ordeal.) And as for the appeal option–it takes years to figure out their crazy methodologies as we have learned here.
Then there is the matter of the travel allowance. It has been reported to only cover one way versus round-trip mileage in VT. If that is true, the trip is simply not affordable for some vets. And if a veteran is working, he/she will miss a whole day of work, probably without pay. Another hardship.
To their great credit, VT DAV volunteers provide transportation to the WRJ VA and there is a DAV shuttle from the Burlington area. A veteran can be picked up at his/her residence (LINK) and then must wait in the lobby for a return ride. This could be stressful depending on a vet’s condition. A vet with PTSD may have to skip riding with a well-meaning stranger for a host of reasons. But without other healthcare options, the DAV transportation is a welcome practical service.