By Jesse Church
Aloha all my fellow veterans and residents of Molokai, old Jesse here with all the veterans news and upcoming events. The new Choice Card program has left bad taste in the mouths of many veterans, and they are extremely angered by the situation. The program was supposed to get veterans to see doctors outside the VA. It was designed for veterans in remote areas or facing long wait times to give them a chance to see care providers, but the program is not working as advertised.
Since the VA started mailing out the cards in late October, about half a million veterans have inquired about the program but only around 30,000 have been able to receive private care appointments through the program. The first week of March, the VFW did a survey and the results were startling. Eighty percent of veterans who were under the impression they were eligible for outside care, were in fact not eligible, a figure the VFW called “unsettlingly high.” When questioned, VA officials said that Congress, not the Department of Veterans Affairs, set the rules of eligibility, and it’s Congress that needs to make fixes when needed. Sure sounds to me like they’re playing the old game of, “it wasn’t me, it was them.” While the VA and Congress argue back and forth, it’s the veterans who are not getting the care they need.
In the last month, I have spoken with six other veterans on Molokai who have been informed by the VA that they are not eligible for the program because they don’t live more than 40 miles from a VA clinic. If that’s the case, every veteran on Molokai is ineligible. Did you know that there’s a “geographic burden” exception? If a veteran is denied the Choice Card program, they can request a geographic burden exception if they feel the 40-mile rule is not being applied fairly.
Now my question is, who determines if it’s being fairly applied? Also, I’m sure that the VA has a form to apply for the exception, but how do I get one? I will continue to try and get answers for these questions, and others that I’m sure will come up. You can be sure that as soon as I get answers, I’ll pass it along to everybody. If you have some information, please give old Jesse a call at 553-3323. Any information will be welcomed. We will get the answers we need, with your help. What we need now is for somebody working for the VA, someone with power or someone in Congress, to stand up and say “enough is enough,” let’s get this taken care of. Our veterans are the backbone of our country, and it’s time to get them the care they earned.
To all our active duty service members, veterans and people of Molokai who support them, I send you a big mahalo. Everyone have a wonderful week, and remember that old Jesse loves you all dearly, so until next week, aloha.