VA CareChoice

In late 2014 Congress and the Senate passed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act – more commonly known as VA CareChoice.  The fund set aside $10Billion for the fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017.  Unfortunately – in the rush to implement getting the funds out for veterans’ benefits – the program experienced significant difficulties. Getting access to those funds was so difficult in 2015 that – of the $3.3Billion earmarked for Veterans’ health benefits – more than half ($1.9Billion) went unspent.

Part of Rural Health Resources’ charter will be to help rural health cooperative networks access those funds, specifically beginning with Mental Health (with a significant emphasis on PTSD).

Basic qualifications for participating in VA CareChoice are:

  • Being enrolled for VA Benefits
  • Needing care where availability of services requires more than 30 days to schedule
  • Being more than 35 miles (driving distance) from a qualified provider
Rural Veterans are highly likely to qualify for this program, and healthcare providers can benefit by being a part of providing solutions to those veterans.  The fact that only 19% of our population lives in Rural America – yet almost 38% of our Vets do – indicates that CareChoice should be something at least understood (and ideally accessed/utilized) by the rural health stakeholders in your community.

While some feel that the VA might be opposed to VA Care Choice, that has not been our experience.  The VA is an overburdened system and – while there are clearly a few “bad apples” – the majority of caregivers in VA system are truly committed to helping Veterans.  Rural Vets who get treatment through VA Care Choice actually HELPS the VA as:

  1. If that Vet were to travel to a VA Center that is one more patient seen in an already burdened system, and
  2. The VA VISN actually gets “credit” for Veterans seen in their area – even through Care Choice

Note that CareChoice funds were set aside specifically to pay for care outside the VA system.

Contact Rural Health Resources to learn more about what participation in the VA Care Choice Act could mean to your state/organization.