When Louis Salvato was a Marine in the late 1960s, he had no idea he would develop liver disease and need medical help from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Now he has no idea why he’s had to wait more than two months to see a non-VA doctor for his illness.
“It’s very frustrating,” Salvato said. Salvato is enrolled in the Veterans Choice program. It allows him to seek local medical treatment from the private sector in the Spring Hill area instead of driving all the way to Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Hospital. Health Net is the contractor the VA pays to set up appointments.
“They’re actually taking longer than if you just went right through the VA,” Salvato complained.
The national office of the Veterans of Foreign Wars is closely monitoring VA health care. It found 26% of the veterans seeking treatment from the private sector wait 30 days or longer for appointments. A senior legislative aid for the VFW said there are delays in part because the VA has only used the private sector as a safety valve – until now.
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