Veterans can get help with healthcare | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | May 19, 2017 5:00 pm
Last Updated: May 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm
By JANET SMITH
On April 19, President Trump signed a law that removes the Aug. 7, 2017, expiration date and allows VA to utilize funding dedicated to the Veterans Choice Program (VCP) until it is exhausted.
The VCP is a critical program that increases access to healthcare for veterans by authorizing millions of office visits for veterans within the community. Three changes were made to the VCP:
Change 1 – Removal of Expiration Date: The law removes the Aug. 7, 2017, expiration date for the VCP. The VCP will continue until the original $10 billion is spent. Based on current estimates, funds will last through January 2018.
Change 2 – Primary Coordinator of Benefits: VA is now the Primary Coordinator of Benefits for services provided to veterans under the VCP. Before this law changed, some veterans were required to pay the cost-shares/co-pays associated with their private health insurance. Now, those veterans will not have to pay the cost-shares/co-pays to their private health-insurance carrier. With the law change, community providers will now bill the VCP.
Change 3 – Information Sharing: Previously, VA had a restriction different from other health-care providers regarding the exchange of health information. This law removes these restrictions and ensures that community providers have access to appropriate health information for veterans in accordance with federal standards related to the exchange of health information. Veterans will experience improved continuity and quality care because community providers will have appropriate access to necessary medical records.
If you are a veteran and you are enrolled for VA healthcare, you may be eligible for the Veterans Choice Program if any of the following situations apply to you:
ν You have been told by the VA that they can’t schedule your appointment within 30 days for care at your local VA medical facility.
n Your current residence is more than 40 miles from the closest VA medical facility.
n You need to travel by air, boat or ferry to the VA medical facility closest to your home.
n You are faced with an excessive burden due to traveling to the closest VA medical facility based on geographic challenges, environmental factors, a medical or other specific factors as determined by your clinician.
To determine your eligibility status, you may go online at www.va.gov/opa/choiceact or call (866) 606-8198. Prior to calling, consult with a local physician and have your private health insurance information available. Walterboro has several participating healthcare providers. If you do not have a local healthcare provider, the VCP will help you find one. For additional information regarding VA benefits, please contact the Colleton County Veterans Affairs Office at (843) 549-1412 or visit us at 219 S. Lemacks Street, Walterboro.
(Janet D. Smith is director of the Colleton County VA Office.)