From my daily read...

Greetings fellow Whigs, and also to you others reading this. I just returned from traveling in Minnesota and Wisconsin where I gathered information from family and friends and made a guest appearance on a N.E. St Paul public access channel. This morning, I came across an article in my own local paper which makes me wish I had the time to address the Veterans Choice Program while on air. The link to the article is at the end of this posting. I hope you take the time to go there and read it, and post your feedback here. Veterans Choice is a relatively new program set out by the Veterans Administration. The idea behind it is to allow Veterans who live more than 40 miles (as the crow flies) from a V.A. Health Care Facility to utilize non-V.A. providers closer to home. As ideas go, it is a good one. However, with all great ideas, there are stumbling blocks. Let's take Alaska, where I live. Virtually EVERYWHERE in Alaska qualifies. There are no V.A. Hospitals in this state at all. Alaska is a tremendous land mass with few people. With this in mind, you would think Veterans Choice would be ideal. However, there are very few participating providers, so finding one in your area can be difficult if not impossible. Then there is the pre-approval requirement. If you need treatment, you have to call for pre-approval, once you get it, you have to find a provider. Getting through these steps in a timely manner is next to impossible. If you do find a provider, they are probably located in Anchorage, great if you live in Anchorage, but not so great if you live in Fairbanks (6 hours away in good weather) and even worse if you live in Angoon (wherever that is...). Then apparently (who knew?), V.A. isn't good at paying the bills on time. I've had this happen to me. I've had complaints from other veterans that providers have gone to collections after 90 days of not being paid. I myself made sure I had copies of the authorizations for treatment and kept calling, emailing, and faxing V.A. until they finally paid up, but others have had their credit ruined while waiting for payment for treatment pre-approved by V.A. For me, it was a pain in the rear end. For others, a financial nightmare. Alaska, of course, is a special case. Not many other states have our population density (or lack thereof). How has your experience with Veterans Choice been? I'd like to know.

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