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Veterans Share Their “Veterans Choice” Horror Stories

WASHINGTON, DC-  As Donald Trump signs an extension of the “Veterans Choice” program, which sends certain veterans to private providers for some health care, many veterans are worried that Trump, as he indicated during his campaign, wants to go further with privatizing and voucherizing the VA.  Those veterans explain that the “Veterans Choice” program hasn’t served them well, and that the answer to better veterans’ care is not to toss more veterans into the private, for-profit system. 

 

VoteVets.org, the largest group of progressive veterans in America, asked its supporters if they were a veteran who used the “Veterans Choice” program, and what their experience was.  Almost immediately, the group was deluged with responses from veterans stating that “Veterans Choice” wasn’t all it was supposed to be, and many said they preferred care they got at the VA..

 

“These stories show that Donald Trump can dress this up all he wants, but at the end of the day, moving towards a private, for-profit model, that puts veterans’ lives in the hands of those looking for profits is not a solution, it’s just creates a bigger problem.  The problem with seeing Veterans Choice as a permanent fix is it takes away the choice many veterans want – VA care,” said Will Fischer, Director of Government Outreach for VoteVets.  “It cannot be stressed enough, Trump’s view is the same old GOP-swamp tactic used to try to privatize Social Security, Medicare, and more.  The swamp continues to get deeper and dirtier, under Donald Trump.”

 

A poll conducted by the Vet Voice Foundation found that 64 percent of veterans oppose moving towards a private system, with only 29 percent supporting the idea.  That poll can be found here:  http://www.vetvoicefoundation.org/press/new-bi-partisan-poll-of-veterans-shows-they-oppose-privatization-or-voucherization-of-va-care

 

Here are just a small sample of the stories sent from veterans to VoteVets, about their experience with Veterans Choice.

 

“This program sucks. I was told I would have no out of pocket expenses if I used a local Doctor. I now have bills and one notice from a collection agency to prove that this is a big lie!!! How am I supposed to pay them when I do not get enough social security to even live on? Thank you so much VA.” – James Seaberg, Burlington, IA

 

“Are you aware that they are using vouchers? $325.00 is all you get for an eye exam and to make your eye glasses. No one makes eye glasses for $325.00. It cost me almost $100.00 out of pocket expense. Veterans that are 50% or greater service- connected are not supposed to have to pay any money for their own eye glasses. Also Colonoscopy exam by private Dr. through the Choice and was incomplete. Went back to VA and they found a pre-cancerous polyp. and probably would have died.  I need a knee replacement at 20% for private insurance co-pay. That would bankrupt me.” – Bonnie Rudolph, Colorado Springs, CO

 

“Choice doesn't work at all. I was told I cannot use it because I have a PCP clinic within the 40-mile limit. But, that is all I have in less than 80 miles, a PCP clinic.” – Al Rogat, Fort Mill, SC

 

"Tri west has not been so good. They have referred me to poor quality doctors. I had a lens implant and cataract removal and it turned out less than good. I do not want see the VA privatized. I am a retired healthcare worker of 41 years and a disabled Vietnam vet. The VA facilities are the only hospitals geared for and capable of large volume injured veterans. I have been using the VA for 44 years, two major surgeries and they treated me when insurance companies would not take pre existing conditions related to war. The private sector would not have a clue, and result in a total disaster. The VA is linked to the major medical schools and provide training for the majority of physicians in this country. The VA is not perfect but is progressive. They are trauma related injury specialists." – Charles Thompson, Port Isabel, TX

 

“Confusing and cumbersome. The phone operators seemed out of their depth. It took several days of calling back every day to finally get an appointment. By that time, I was able to get a VA appointment, so I dropped the Choice request. – Tony D., Lakewood, CA

 

“I am a US Army 20-year veteran who relies heavily on the VA for all of my healthcare needs. Last year I was directed over to the "Choice" program to meet my allergy needs. It was a disaster from the moment I had one of many conversations.  It took forever to get them to create an appointment for me. There was problems with billing "Choice".  Payment for the services took FOREVER! The folks running the "Choice" program were uncaring and sounded robotic in their responses.  Nobody within the "Choice" program ever knew what their counterparts were doing. Totally clueless!  As a veteran, I deserve better than privatization of my benefits that I worked hard for and was promised. Please don't allow this ill-prepared group of clowns running our country to complete their blitzkrieg of the programs and benefits we've earned.” – Jane Clevenger, Loveland, CO

 

“Annoying. I was prescribed a course of physical therapy and surprised to get a letter from a civilian therapist about 10 miles farther away than the VA hospital. When I called the CHOICE headquarters it was obvious they had no knowledge of the geography of the Seattle area. They claimed they were getting me care closer to where I lived. NOT. After a lot of arguments I finally was assigned to a different branch of that clinic that was closer to where I actually live but was not impressed with the treatment I got. The therapists at the VA are much better.” – Paula Ross, Seattle, WA

 

“I found the experience very unpleasant. I was sent out for eye surgery and was treated as if I was a charity case by the doctors and staff at the 'Eye Clinic', a private medical provider. I was insulted and treated terribly.” – Steve Stewart, Fresno, CA

 

“Some good, most bad. I am a candidate for bariatric surgery after having qualified thru the Topeka, KS VA. Finding a surgeon in the VA was not an option so I was given authorization to use Tri-West for the surgery and Tri-West failed to find a surgeon at all - for 6 months. Now I need to have a re-authorization for the surgery and it has been bogged down thru the Salina KS CBOC staff.” – Jeffrey Zamrzla, Salina, KS

 

“Confusion with scheduling and billing arose early in the program when I had the lung cancer biopsy done at a private hospital when the Orlando VA facility could not schedule/preform it in a timely manner. As a result, even though I live more that 30-miles from my assigned VA treatment facility, I now choose not to primarily use the Choice program instead opting for regular VA treatment.  Today I received yet another radiology bill for $21.88 yet not paid by the Choice program. Not only am I 100% covered (no-copay) but the entire bill of $326.25 was filed with the Orlando VA 2/16/16 by me after being originally billed despite being authorized by Choice. And now I see where I've been charged the current unpaid amount of $21.88 as of 4/1/17.  I now have to take this to the Daytona Beach VA clinic and see the Fla VA rep and file it again. HOW many times does this have to be filed with the VA because Choice cannot even pay the bills properly?  Take this to the committee hearing in DC as a typical example of their ineptitude.” – Tony Brachhold, Daytona Beach, FL

 

“This program was not very good. Other vets agreed with me. I had to call California numerous times, with them arguing with me and telling me that I wasn't in the program, when I had signed up for it. Finally, I asked to speak with a manager, who never called back. I called again because I had a card and a number too. Finally, I just gave up. It was a Republican deal, so what do you expect?” – Thomas Deceault, Florence, OR

 

Founded in 2006, and backed by over 500,000 supporters, the mission of VoteVets.org is to use public issue campaigns and direct outreach to lawmakers to ensure that troops abroad have what they need to complete their missions, and receive the care they deserve when they get home. VoteVets.org also recognizes veterans as a vital part of the fabric of our country and will work to protect veterans' interests in their day-to-day lives. VoteVets.org is committed to the destruction of terror networks around the world - with force when necessary - to protect America. While non-partisan, the group is the largest progressive organization of veterans in America.