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Most veterans say new program offers no choice

Melissa Blasius | 9 News

KUSA - At the weekly Pagosa Springs Veterans for Veterans meeting, nearly everyone in attendance said they should qualified for the Veterans Choice Card program, but a 9Wants to Know review of Veterans Affairs data shows only a handful have managed to get an appointment.

"The Veterans Choice Card is so hard to use," said Archuleta County Veterans Service Officer Raymond Taylor. "The veteran gets frustrated so quickly that they are not going to try to use it," he added.

Congress created the $10 billion program last year through the Veterans Choice Act. It was enacted in reaction to reports of secret VA waiting lists, which hid substantial delays in veterans' medical care. 9Wants to Know has been investigating delays in Colorado veterans' care for the last year, exposing a secret patient list used in the Sleep Lab and calculating what top hospital administrators received in bonuses.

VA patients began receiving their Choice cards in November, which would allow them to access private doctors in their own communities at VA expense.

In its first four months, the Choice program has sputtered.

As of Feb. 28, Colorado veterans were able to schedule just 403 Choice appointments, according to VA data obtained by 9Wants to Know. Nationwide, 21,439 veterans booked appointments. The Veterans Health Administration has 8.6 million total enrolled patients.

Read the full report here (to include several useful infographics):

Mental Health
Physical Well-Being