While the Department of Veterans Affairs takes measures to bolster its medical staff and improve access to care nationwide, it is sending the Veterans Choice Card to each one of about 9 million enrollees.
If veterans live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility, or if they have waited longer than 30 days for medical appointments, they can use the card to get care from non-VA providers, with some restrictions.
About 320,000 cards were mailed Nov. 5 to veterans with the distance eligibility, and another 370,000 will be mailed in late November to those with appointment wait times of more than 30 days. All VA enrollees should receive their cards in the mail by the end of January 2015.
Before using the cards, veterans should understand that:
• Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE are not approved plans under the Veterans Choice Card program. If you use these programs instead of your card, you will be personally liable for any out-of-pocket expenses.
• You had to enroll in VA health care by Aug. 1, 2014, to be eligible for the Veterans Choice Card.
• The card is not a free pass for unlimited health care from any provider you may choose in the private sector.
• Before using your card, VA must verify your eligibility and provide advance authorization.
• To verify your eligibility, call the phone number printed on your Veterans Choice Card; if you are eligible, a VA program manager must authorize in advance each use of private care.
• You can choose from a network of VA-approved providers, or select your own provider (which VA also has to approve in advance).
• To be VA-approved, private health care providers must accept Medicare rates or work at: Department of Defense facilities, Indian Health Service facilities or other federally qualified health centers.
• Your private-care practitioner must have a valid medical license to practice.
• The Veterans Choice Card does not replace your VA identification card. Keep it.
• Bear in mind that this program lasts only three years, or until funding is exhausted, at which point the cards can no longer be used.
VA has signed contracts with two private health-care companies to help administer the Veterans Choice program: Tri West (http://www.triwest.com/en/veteran-services) and Health Net (https://www.hnfs.com/content/hnfs/home/va/home/veterans-choice.html).
Click here (http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/) for more information about VA’s Veterans Choice Card program.
If you still have questions after reviewing the information, please contact The American Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division at (202) 861-2700 or VAR@legion.org.