The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has implemented the Second Phase of its new Choice Card Program.
Last Monday, the VA began mailing Veterans Choice Cards to Veterans who are currently been waiting more than 30-days from their preferred date or the date that is medically determined by their physician for an appointment at a VA facility.
In an open letter to Veterans, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald wrote, “The VA continues to focus on implementation of this new temporary benefit so that Veterans receive the timely quality care they need in a way that reduces confusion and inefficiencies.”
The Choice Card Program is a new, temporary VA benefit that allows some Veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. It is an honest attempt to address the problems exposed in the recent wait-time scandal at the VA.
The first round of cards accompanied a letter from the VA explaining the new program were mailed on November 5 to veterans who are eligible based on their place of residence.
Now the VA has taken the nest step in the rollout of the new program. Letters from the VA explaining eligibility requirements for the Choice Card Program are being sent to Veterans who have waited more than 30 days from their preferred date to be seen at a VA facility.
More Than a Half Million Veterans Wait a Month for Care. In an attempt to improve service delivery, the VA has prioritized efforts to accelerate the effort to get Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics through the Accelerated Care Initiative that began this summer in response to the wait-time scandal.
VA medical centers have increased access to care inside and outside the VA. The VA has expanded clinic hours and added more work days. The VA has also deployed mobile medical units. As part of the Accelerated Care Initiative, the VA has also shared the best practices from the VA’s high-performing facilities to all other facilities throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Statistics indicate that the Accelerated Care Initiative has resulted in significant improvements have nationally within the VA:
- VA health care facilities have scheduled more than 1.2 million more appointments in the past four months than in the same period in 2013. From June to October 1, 2014; VA medical centers have scheduled over 19 million Veteran patient appointments.
- The national new patient Primary Care wait time has been reduced by 18 percent.
- VA health care facilities are currently scheduling 98 percent of appointments within 30 days of the Veterans’ preferred date, or the date determined to be medically necessary by a physician.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs has issued 1.1 million non-VA care authorizations, so the VA will pay for veterans to get timely health care at private health care facilities; a 47-percent increase over the same period in 2013.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs has increased the amount of time providers can spend to deliver care to Veterans. The VA has increased the number of clinic hours in primary and specialty care and by adding weekend and evening clinics at VA medical centers throughout the country.
The Choice Card Program is part of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), enacted this summer to enable the VA to meet the demand for veterans’ health care in the short-term.
For more information about the Choice Card Program, call 1-866- 606-8198 or go to the VA’s Choice Card website http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/.