Choice Card No Substitute for Veterans Hospitals Long Term

The country's largest veterans' service organization.

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By Bryant Jordan

The country’s largest veterans’ service organization told Congress on Wednesday that it supports giving veterans access to private sector care when necessary, but will not accept any move to privatize Veterans Affairs Department healthcare.

“The American Legion applauded emergency legislation to allow veteran patients to use non-VA providers if they were waiting a month or longer to see a doctor or if they lived far from VA facilities,” Legion National Commander Michael Helm said. “But let me be clear …  We oppose privatization or vouchering out of VA care as a long-term solution.”

A program established last year created a veterans Choice Card, enabling veterans facing long appointment wait times, or those who live far from a VA hospital or clinic to go to a private provider.

The $15 billion Choice Act was a response to veterans’ frustration with getting timely care or having to go to VA facilities sometimes hundreds of miles away. Delays and distance already were issues when the wait-time scandal broke last year out of the VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Whistleblowers told CNN that many veterans waiting for an appointment were put on a secret or unauthorized wait lists and that more than 30 died.

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