Veterans reading only headlines, hearing only sound bites, might have a few misconceptions about how Congress and the VA plan to use non-VA health-care providers to ensure more timely and convenient access to care.
A magical-sounding item called a “Veteran’s Choice Card,” for example, won’t be a limitless credit card given qualified veterans to cover whatever health services they receive from whatever physician they use.
And veterans not already enrolled in VA health care won’t gain accelerated access to outside care as promised by the legislation – unless they serve in areas of combat operations within five years of enrollment.
The centerpiece of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (HR 3230), signed into law by President Barack Obama on Thursday, is a special $10 billion Veterans Choice Fund. Over the next three years, VA is to use the fund as needed to buy care from non-VA care providers for veterans if they face long waits for VA care – defined initially as more than 30 days — or if they reside more than 40 miles from VA care.