About the Choice Program
In 2014 the VA created the Choice Program for Veterans who lived more than 40 miles from a Veterans Administration Healthcare facility. Under the Choice Program, a Veteran could call the VA healthcare facility he was assigned to, explain he lived more than 40 miles away and wanted to visit a healthcare facility closer to his home. The VA would coordinate care for the Veteran and make arrangements for the VA to pay the bill. At least this is the way the program was designed to work.
Unfortunately, many of these rural healthcare providers have gone unpaid for months and in some cases years. Veterans are receiving bills in the thousands of dollars from facilities they thought had been paid long ago threatening to take the money from their bank accounts.
Change is Coming
In June 2018 Congress got involved, passing a massive overhaul called The VA Mission Act. One of the many items addressed by this bill is the requirement that the VA will have to pay bills to Choice providers within 30 days when filed electronically or 45 days when filed by mail. If these bills are not paid on time, they will begin to accrue interest, something Congress does not want to pay.
To make sure this is happening, the VA is required to report to Congress each month the number of claims outstanding, how many days late each payment is, and how much interest is due on the arrearage.
The law gives Congress authority to hire an outside company to handle these payments on behalf of the VA if Congress finds the VA cannot fix the problems that exist. However, it is expected the VA will be given some time to correct the situation.
Not a Done Deal
The VA Mission Act is long overdue, but don’t look for these corrections to take place tomorrow. The bill is still working its way through the Rulemaking process in Congress. It could be some time before implementation begins.
In the meantime, if you are contacted by a provider about an overdue bill from the VA, a toll-free number (877-881-7618) has been established for you to call. Don’t wait until your credit has been affected.