MTPR

Veterans Choice

Tester Bills Gives VA Bigger Role Veterans Choice Program
Courtesy Sen. Jon Tester

Three years after Congress created the Veterans Choice healthcare program, it continues to flounder.

Here’s Montana Senator Jon Tester, who helped create Veterans Choice:

 Tony Lapinski is a Montana veteran who's had trouble using Veterans Choice
Mike Albans

Both of Montana’s U.S. Senators have sent letters chastising the company that runs the Veterans Choice healthcare program in Montana and 36 other states.

Veterans Choice is supposed to help vets get appointments with private health care providers if they live far from a VA facility, or have been waiting a long time for a VA appointment. It was created in 2014, and has been plagued with problems since the beginning.

First Of Its Kind Veteran's Resource Opens In Missoula

Sep 29, 2016
Denise Juneau, right, cuts the ribbon Ed Lesofski holds up at the grand opening ceremony for the Rural Institute for Veterans Education and Research in Missoula Thursday, Sept. 29. RIVER is considered a first-of-its kind program for veterans.
Edward O'Brien

A first-of-its-kind training and intervention program for veterans celebrated its grand opening in Missoula Thursday, Sept. 29.

The Rural Institute for Veterans Education and Research – “RIVER” for short – helps vets reintegrate back into civilian life after their military service ends.

There are now five and a half weeks until Congress takes its two-month summer recess. One bill that Senator Jon Tester had hoped there would be action on by now still hasn’t advanced out of committee. It’s the proposed bi-partisan fix to the troubled Veterans Choice health care program.

Mineral County Hospital representatives say the hospital has not been paid for services delivered under the Veterans Choice program.
Courtesy Mineral County Hospital

Congressman Ryan Zinke says the nation can’t just throw more money at a widely criticized veterans’ health care program.

Many veterans are still waiting to see a doctor.

Montana Senator Jon Tester
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Legislation aiming to fix the troubled Veterans Choice healthcare program made progress in the Senate today.

Veterans Choice, file photo.
Courtesy Veterans Administration

Sen. Jon Tester has introduced a proposed fix for the year-old Veterans Choice program.

"This is a big deal for veterans. It’s a big deal for the VA and I think [it’ll be] a big deal once we get it passed.”

Mineral County Hospital representatives say the hospital has not been paid for services delivered under the Veterans Choice program.
Courtesy Mineral County Hospital

This week we’re reporting on a year-old program for veterans that’s supposed to make it easier for them to get health care. It’s called Veterans Choice, and yesterday we heard widespread agreement that it’s not working as Congress intended. Frustration with Veterans Choice in Montana became evident in February, when Senator Jon Tester held 28 meetings across the state to get vets' feedback on it.

Veterans Choice, file photo.
Courtesy Veterans Administration

Two years ago news broke about a scandal at the Veterans Administration hospital in Phoenix. Congressional investigators found that the hospital was covering up the lengthy waiting times that veterans faced trying to see doctors. There’s evidence that 40 veterans, maybe more, died while waiting for medical appointments.

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