The long waits at VA health clinics aren’t a secret. The inefficiencies have been widely published and the criticism has been sharp. In an effort to curb the long waits, the VA introduced the Choice Program a few years ago.
This program is designed to let veterans get the treatment they need at private practices that have shorter wait times and are closer to where the veteran lives. So far the program has worked fairly well for veterans. They can get treatment faster and they don’t have to drive to some far away VA clinic.
However, the program isn’t working very well for doctors. A recent NPR report revealed that the program is plagued with inefficiencies on the provider side, especially when it comes to payment.
Doctors are facing long wait times getting payments for treatment they have given veterans. One psychologist in North Carolina who dedicates a large portion of her practice to treating vets with PTSD reported having close to $5,000 in outstanding bills the VA owes her.
Another problem is the consistency of care. In order to treat veterans consistently doctors need to get referrals from the VA, which can be cumbersome to get sometimes. If a doctor fails to get a continuation referral for a current patient, it could interrupt the veteran’s treatment. This is especially dangerous for veterans getting psychiatric treatment, because consistency is so important.
The Choice Program is still a relatively new program, and hopefully the VA can iron out these problems soon. This program seems to be a step in the right direction for improved veteran care, but the doctors need to be taken care of too.