President Trump just allotted more money to help veterans with their medical care, but the program this act funds is not something some Amarillo veterans are totally impressed with.
The Veterans Choice Program, created in 2014, allows veterans access to private health care outside of what the VA can provide.
The program has made a difference for the Amarillo VA and the people it serves.
But lots of paperwork, confusing billing systems and miscommunication regarding the Choice Program have some Amarillo veterans upset and confused about why it’s so hard for them to get the health care they need.
“It should be simple because we simply gave our commitment to spend our lives if necessary for the defense of the country,” said veteran Phillip Stratton. “It should be just as simple for the country to react to that or to support its veterans in their health care and I don’t see that happening.”
The Choice Program gives veterans access to private doctors in the event they can’t get an appointment at the right time at the VA or need more specific medical care.
“It really has enhanced our ability to open a wider area of access and possibilities for our veterans for services that they need,” said Franke Robertson, Chief of Community Care for the Amarillo VA.
Thee complaints staff receive aren’t about the VA hospital.
“The doctors, the nurses, all the staff, they treat you like a king, they have me,” said veteran James Morris. “I have no complaints about the hospital.”
Veterans want all the help from the organization they can get.
But if the Choice Program doesn’t get easier for them to use, some may look elsewhere.
“The private sector seems to do a better job and is quicker to respond to your needs,” said Stratton.
On Saturday President Trump signed an act giving $2.1 billion to the Choice Program, which should be enough money to last into next year.
But if the funding stops, some veterans will struggle.
“[It will] certainly lower the opportunity for good care because with the Choice Program at least you have the opportunity possibly to look into better care if that opportunity presents itself,” said Stratton. “If you can jump through all the hoops.”
Robertson said if the choice program runs out of funding next year, the Amarillo VA is still committed to getting local veterans the care they need.
Copyright 2017 KFDA. All rights reserved.