Government Watch / Opinion / Veterans News

Obama Administration Attempts to Cut Bipartisan Veterans’ Choice Card Program

boy-flag-sunsetBy – Peter A. Finocchio

In the wake of the disturbing news of neglect and maltreatment at VA hospitals last year, Congress responded in part by passing the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, legislation that enables veteran patients to qualify for care at non-VA health care if they have been unable to schedule an appointment at a VA hospital or reside a difficult journey from such a facility. The legislation passed the House 265-160, passed the Senate 93-3, and was signed into law by President Obama on August 7th of last year. AMAC was proud to support this legislation and we were glad that at a time when so much in Washington is defined by partisanship and gridlock, both parties could come together so effectively to support a commonsense measure that helps ensure that America’s veterans receive the care that they need.

This is why it is so distressing to see that President Obama’s budget, at the recommendation of his new Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, is proposing to cut part of the $10 billion in funding for the new Choice Card program. While McDonald said that the cut “wasn’t meant to be controversial,” it risks compromising the health security of our nation’s veterans and has stirred significant opposition from leaders of both parties in Congress. Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee has rightly denounced a reallocation of the Choice Card funds as a “non-starter.” Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a veteran himself, remarked that it is “totally unacceptable that the administration would attempt to subvert the will of Congress and deny veterans the health care choices they’ve earned and deserve.” New Hampshire Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Kelly Ayotte (R) have written a joint letter to the President opposing his proposed cuts and have jointly introduced legislation to make the Choice Card program permanent.

A new poll from Concerned Veterans for America shows that nearly nine out of ten veterans believe officials need to increase health care choices for VA patients, including access to private care physicians. More choice was both the intent and the effect of the Choice Card program. Since November 1st, over 8 million cards have been issued. Veterans are taking advantage of this program and are depending on it. For the President to consider compromising this effective and popular program, over vocal objections from leaders in both parties, suggests that he is out of touch with the needs of veterans. AMAC will continue to monitor this situation and hopes that President Obama will relent on this proposal. We are grateful for the leadership of New Hampshire Senators Shaheen (D) and Ayotte (R) in defending the Choice Card program and applaud their legislative efforts to make it permanent. AMAC is proud to represent a large number of veterans among our 1.2 million members. We owe it to our members and to our nation to provide those who risked their lives to defend our freedom.


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Paul E Rhoades
6 years ago

as a veteran we were called on to give 100% of whatever the orders were to protect the USA THERE WAS NO 10% CUT OR ANY THING LESS THAN WHATEVER IT TOOK TO DO THE JOB WE WERE GIVEN . WHY NOW DOES THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION DECIDE TO CUT THE VETERANS CHOICE CARD PROGRAM IF OBAMA WANTS TO CUT SPENDING LETS CUT THE BENEFITS GIVEN TO THE MANY ILLEGALS AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES THAT HATE OUR WAY OF LIFE

otto borden
6 years ago

As s vet who has been scheduled by choice they got my files all wrobg . The program is not staffed at the Salisbury VAMC and has a huge backlog. I haven’t seen a outside doctor since I was called back in January then they sent the wrong person files. The program is wasting money money on resources it needs to be staffed to work the VA never hired anyone in Salisbury to handle thevfiles she had Giles stacked to the ceiling and others have offered to work overtime to help. The program the way its setup is a failure. The company used for the program is a very low grade medical health care business primarily for those who cannot afford insurance or extremly poor . I say it needs to be reworked get it right and stop wasting money

alfredo
7 years ago

I Won’t say dismantle the VA. So I will say separate health care from claims and administration. Instead of creating useless bills that don’t benefit the veteran directly. Spend money on private practices on local community offices that do offer quality care without bias and bigotry. If anything start funding more things like the DAV as administration, because we know the VA is just a bunch of over paid and undeserving personnel that should be fired.

Steve Hansen
7 years ago

Mr. President,

Get the VA’s house in order, then there will be no need for veterans to go to private doctors, the card will not be necessary, and the $10 billion program can be scrapped.

If you cannot accomplish that, then eliminate the VA and use the money intended for the VA to pay for private care for veterans.

Steve Hansen
7 years ago

Mr. President,

Get the VA’s house in order, then there will be no need for veterans to go to private doctors, the card will not be necessary, and the $10 billion program can be scrapped.

Stanley
7 years ago

The obama administration thinks nothing of forgiving College Loan debit, but wants to cut $10 billion on allocated money for the new Choice Card program. Talk about “Grand Theft!”

I agree, Congressional personnel and their staff members should have to use the VA Health System. So many of them talk like the VA Health problems are new, the problems have always been there. The real issue is many more veterans are contacting their congressional representatives about the reality of the VA Health System, so “votes” are driving the problems to the forefront.

The Government can’t run the VA Health System or the Postal System, what makes them think they can run obamacare? They are already in trouble with the late-fees for people who have not signed up. Now they want to give special treatment to those people and give them another chance to sign-up. The obamacare system is either flawed or they are calling all the people who did not make the deadline, mid-night, 15 Feb 2015, “Stupid.” You decide!

The term “Common Sense” needs to be retrieved from the Smithsonian Museum and put back into everyday life!
There must be oversight and accountability placed on all Lobbyist and Special Interest Groups, in all levels of Government.

William Brown
7 years ago

Open letter to AMAC:
Would AMAC consider a petition to its members to initiate a petition to Congress (House & Senate) to entirely participate in the same services that we Veteranss receive? They vote for it; thwerefore they should experience it. I refer to the VA facilities, Red Tape of the agency for Aid and Attendance Pension, etc., etc. If the members of Congress had to tolerate the nonsense then mayybe, just maybe, they would change a few things.
Another item to consider is that thiis bunch of NON-VETERAN BUMBLEHEADS have no idea what it is like to serve and yet they put up the biggest phoney front ()just like Brian Williams). Let’s insist that to serve in Congress, one MUST serve in the Military. OK ?????

Ivan Berry
7 years ago

PAULE, There does seem to be those amongst us who strive to expand the horizons of readers of these posts, and, thankfully refuse to stick to the article’s subject matter to get their points across.
You of course know the evil of activist judges, a complicit Congress and the horror of administrative law. In addressing these and other concerns, you help to bring light to the subject of government.
It can be a thankless task, but without those who continue to spread the evidence of what is wrong with this and earlier administrations, we will be stuck with ever more egregious progressivism.
On the earlier debate between you and RIK from last week, I understand his frustration, but agree that we should continue trying to get our reps in line before just letting our ship of state sink. There is still some time before the apocalypse, and the devil take the hindmost.

david r shumate
7 years ago

Quit talking and do something dammit!!!

sal
7 years ago

I have been working for the VA for over 30 years…. the best thing to do for our veterans is to close the VA and give them a VA blue cross card and let them go were ever they want. I have tried my whole career to make it better but it is too big. The waste and abuse of power that goes on is criminal

PaulE
7 years ago
Reply to  sal

Yes! See my comment below.

Marilyn
7 years ago

I was 12 when WWII ended, and I can remember how we cheered our returning veterans. They were our heroes. If a uniformed soldier (or sailor or Marine) got on the streetcar, especially if he used a cane or otherwise showed that he had been injured, one of us schoolkids would get up and give him our seat. The GI bill helped so many. I didn’t know how the VA was in those days, but to hear about the current crappy way our veterans are being treated really makes me mad. Obama isn’t worthy to polish the boots of these guys.

Robert A Hirschmann
7 years ago

Our two faced Muslim-in-chief strikes again.

Wayne Tebeau
7 years ago

The debt is increasing by 2.38 billion per DAY on average since 9/30/2012 and the commie shitbag wants to cut back on 10 billion in VA funding ??? Just tell him it’s all going for the care of muslims, he’ll have no problem with it.

Michelle
7 years ago

I am a service connected disabled veteran and AMAC member. I am in this Choice Card program and went to a doctor less than a mile from my home. It is a very good program and I was encouraged that the government implemented it for us veterans. I am saddened that once again those of us who gave our blood sweat and tears for the US are being put on the back burner. While our medical care is being cut the illegals are getting free medical care that we Americans are paying for out of our limited dollars. When my family and I go to a civilian hospital and doctor the FIRST thing we have to submit is proof of insurance and have to sign a statement that we are responsible for the bill in the event the insurance does not pay. I pray this Choice Card program is not shut down. Thank you AMAC for your continued efforts on our behalf!

Howard
7 years ago

Actually, the federal government should get out of the hospital business, and have the VA administer Health Care Insurance for our vets. Allow vets to go to the best medical facilities and doctors in the country, without limiting them to VA hospitals.

PaulE
7 years ago
Reply to  Howard

Absolutely correct! The federal government will never “fix” the VA. No more than they can ever “fix” any other dysfunctional federal agency. Simply provide vets with a VA insurance card that will allow them to receive whatever medical care they require anywhere THEY THEMSELVES CHOOSE in the United States. Period. No premiums. No deductibles. No endless bureaucratic red tape or delays.

Nick F
7 years ago

Always making cuts for veterans and hard working people, but you never hear anything about cuts to welfare for illegal ( oops I mean undocumented immigrants). That is why all of congress and the president do nothing for the good people of this country. They only do what is good for themselves and to hell with the people.

Eddie
7 years ago

That’s liberalism for you, can’t offer you nothing that makes sense, now if you were an illegal alien now we may have something now that makes sense.Liberalism, our screws never stop turning. Screwing Americans since 2008.

Joe Steinberg
7 years ago

It proves how stupid and uninformed our so called president is.When the GI bill was passed in 1944 there were people trying to cut its benefits then and are still trying to under today’s benefits to veterans. Thanks to the VFW, American Legion, DAV and other Vet organizations that have fought like crazy to help keep these benefits. Just vote the jackasses out and put in more vets and they will stay away from what we deserve for our service connected disabilities.

Ivan Berry
7 years ago

Having once joined the USAF, traveled the world doing “it’s” business, learned a “trade” (electronics/microwave tx/ computer and ancillary), returned to civilian life and ended up after a few years (and tears) working for a government contracting company. This move was much like “frying pan into the fire” what with the overload of regulations and bureaucracy. After a few years of selective abuse, someone asked was I interested in taking another opening for an overseas position. Having done that earlier in my employ and weathering the mismanagement problems, my answer was,”I wouldn’t even cross the road to pee on it if the company was on fire.”
If our government continues on the path that seems so far ingrained, taking advantage of the “doers” to award the so called “thinkers,” and passing legislation to the point anyone would need a lawyer specialist just to navigate the complications, and withholding assistance that was earned in service that is no longer held in esteem. casting them aside when no longer able to do the job like disposing of a used latex STD device, then how long before no one will be willing to cross that road in service to an elitist governing body of somebodys that have no real use for us nobodys until they need more canon fodder for their “perpetual war” that is not designed to ever end nor ever be won. This nation has won a few battles since the 40’s, but we have not won any major conflict, no wars. Our leadership is well trained in losing and continue to show that skillset in about every decision they make.
We need to return to Constitutional law and let Congress take responsibility for declaring war. If Congress is unwilling to declare, we should stay at home. And if not allowed to stay at home, at least be allowed medical assistance that was not only legislated, but promised. We don’t owe politicians shit. We do owe our Vets.

SlipperCity
7 years ago
Reply to  Ivan Berry

Ivan, you are RIGHT ON but we don’t seem to be able to do anything about this major injustice. If it is the politicians, the illegals, and the lay-abouts who will benefit, the sky is the limit; when it comes to veterans, the politicians lie and do nothing but cut, cut, cut. Then they pat themselves on the back for living up to their fiscal responsibilities. FIRE EVERY LAST ONE OF THESE DO NOTING POLITICIANS — ELECT PEOPLE WHO HAVE THEIR HEADS SCREWED ON STRAIGHT. But we won’t and don’t do this. Every voter’s attitude is that my congressman is OK, it’s yours that has to be replaced.

Ivan Berry
7 years ago
Reply to  SlipperCity

Slippercity, I can only hope that the current renewed interest in the Constitution can take hold and more people can become informed. That’s the only way that is likely to make the difference between a faithful return to liberty and the steady encroachment of Socialist/Communist totalitarianism.

Lincoln Sorensen
7 years ago
Reply to  SlipperCity

We, the conservative people, need to get organized, and do more than just blogging on these sites. Contact all your internet acquaintances and get them to attend meetings locally. Discuss issues amongst yourselves and come to agreements what you want your politicians to sign into bills and vote on. Appoint a spokesperson for your group. Then when your politician is back in his local office, assemble there as a group and voice your demands. You can do the same at city council meetings. Then follow up on the progress of your demands and should they come up for a vote, determine who voted for and against. Then you will know who to vote for in the next election. Make sure the politicians know you are following up by frequently inquiring of the progress. We have to quit standing in herds while these politicians postulate before us and spew rhetoric. WE need to tell Them what WE want them to get done and pronto. THEY work for US!!!!!

Ivan Berry
7 years ago

Good advice, Lincoln. But don’t forget the local or near tea party groups. Some of them are good at covering what ought to be. Some are better organized than others, but the one I visit and speak to is pretty well up on issues, both locally, statewide and nationally.
Another thing to address: if you and your group are given to contribute to a particular candidate, it is helpful to bundle those contributions. One donation from a group for $500 makes a bigger impression that $10 dollars spread over 50 contacts. If all contributers cannot visit at once, a spokesperson can do the job and express the groups pleasure or displeasure in consinses with the groups desires.

Larry Myers
7 years ago

Reading the experiences of my fellow vets, unfortunately, not a surprise me. As a 100% SC Disabled Vet, my experiences mirror theirs. I have been in the VA system for 41 years. If VA was a business in the private sector, it would have gone out of business many years ago because of inefficiency, turnover of doctors, an atmosphere where the patient’s needs are secondary to the moods and whim’s of of a staff who know they can’t be fired and if they are caught in job failures, they are either re-assigned to another section or another VA center or all the problems are blamed on the veterans “non-compliance”. Hate to use the “broad brush” because I have found a handful of VA employees, mainly PA’s and a few RN’s, who actually see their job as providing health care to the veteran. I was issued the Health Choice Card, but was promptly told I could not use it because I live within one mile of the arbitrary distance rule. I have not been able to see a VA primary care doctor since 2013 so my prescription requests and refills are handled by LPN’s and one RN. I am so thankful for finally reaching the age to qualify for Medicare. I see doctors who care about my service related conditions and their affects on the rest of my health. Even though these civilian doctors are tops in their field, when they write a prescription for me, I have to take their treatment notes and prescription, drive to the VA, hand them to a nurse who always tells me the same thing, “we will show them to a VA doctor who will have to re-write your prescription IF he agrees you need the medication”. (Usually, this will be a medical student doctor doing his residency at VA.)

Doc
7 years ago

I took the AMAC poll on approve/disapprove,started by clicking “unsure,” then clicked “no.”

I did so because I thought the intent of the program is worthy and meaningful…but the administrative follow is GROSSLY ineffecient.

I am a disabled veteran, reside in CT, and live over 55 miles from the nearest VA hospital where I receive what they call “specialty care” (cardio/pulmonary and similar). Rather than travel over 100 miles round trip, I inquired about this Program, only to be told NO, “…there is a walk-in clinic within ten miles” (who don’t do specialty care, and I need their permission to go to the VA hospital–I also have a local cardiologist willing to sign on to the Program).

Recently, I was unable to attend to a VA Hospital appt., because I was feeling ill with heart palpitations due to a severe snow storm (2 feet) & resultant shoveling (plus the storm ended the day of my appt–couldn’t get out of my driveway anyway). I called the VA (“central number” hahahaha) and was told the next appointment was in late April–almost three months distant.

When I inquired why so far in months for a new appointment, I was told it was a) a “specialty clinic;” b) these specialty clinics only occur one day each week, on a Tuesday afternoon, starting at 2:30 pm until 4:30 pm (probably good to see just 8 veterans each week for 15 mins.apiece); and c) all appointments were full until late April. By the way, the VA Hospital uses Yakle interns as a support, but they still pay them and other hospital doctors, staff, and administrators exhorbitant fees for sitting around–I’ve seen it firsthand.

I asked what these doctors and staff did the rest of the week??–I couldn’t get a straight answer, and I laughed out loud to the phone clerk–who didn’t get it. And get this: all specialty clinics occur on a Tuesday–i.e, cardio, pulmonary and similar…

All this legislation did was increase the bureaucracy, staff, salary/wage increases, just to serve about 60-75 veterans a month (8 veterans @ 15 mins. each x 4 weeks x each specialty).

To go to the local cardio saves the VA in transportation costs, as they pay me roughly $45 to go to the VA Hospital over 50 miles away….THAT is how the VA costs taxpayers

…while at the same time, spending hundreds of thousands of $$ buying art and artifacts to adorne their offices and hallways (September 2013 before the end of that fiscal year), plus increased worthless staffing for nonsense “gateway” controls (do we really need a central appointment control staff??), plus ridiculous maintenance costs for vacant buildings about to be razed anyway…bring THAT money back and I might deem the VA worthwhile.

The Program also favors recently discharged veterans over the last ten years by THIS administration–I’ve heard it, seen it–and the older veteran is being tossed by the wayside–me included.

Until then, I am not sure about this Program, because it needs extreme fine-tuning to get the intent right.

You’re damn right I’m pissed…

Lincoln Sorensen
7 years ago
Reply to  Doc

I hear (read) comments about VA hospitals and can relate and symphise. I went to the one in Kansas City a couple times a few years back when I lived there. I was not impressed with the attitude of most of the staff there toward the vets. I never was directly treated in a condescending way, but observed other vets being treated with less than respect. I am pro military even though I only served 4 years in the USNavy. I qualify as a vet because my time fell during the Viet Nam war. I was on an aircraft carrier where meals are served nearly round the clock, had a comfy “rack” and never had bullets whizzing past my ears, nor did I tramp through jungles and fall into pits with sharpened bamboo sticks embedded in the bottom. We sailed off the coast of Laos for a month during the “Laod Crises which preceded the Viet Nam war. We took the ship around the horn and then were in the Cuban Missile Crises. I never felt I deserved the vet status, and since I have always been rather vocal and could get volitile, I quit going to the VA because I thought I may get myself arrested for assault if I saw someone mistreating a vet. I retired and left Kansas City and now I am a patient at the VA hospital in Columbia, Mo. It is under the direction of the Kansas City facility, but you would never know it. The people there bend over backwards to be helpful and respectful. Smiles everywhere, but stick to business attitude, also. The one thing that gets me about Medicare and the VA is there is no dental care proviced by either. why? We all know good dental hygiene contributes to good health. Bad hygiene promotes susceptibility to other deseases which require costly treatment. Could it be that the largest lobby force in politics, the big pharmaceuticals lobbied congress to keep dental care out of medicare and VA care so vets and old people, the two groups who are least likely to be able to afford dental care, would get sick more often and need prescription drugs? The Va does have a dental clinic which is manned but does very little.

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