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.
The program provides:
- Peer support mentoring,
- A support phone line, and
- A website with a wealth of resources on family caregiving.
The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, a program specifically for eligible Post 9/11 Veterans and their caregivers, offers additional support and services, including access to health insurance and financial assistance. The primary family caregiver must meet certain criteria but is not required to be the Veteran’s spouse.
Click here to learn more about the Caregiver Support Program.
Women Veterans Eligible for Many Benefits
While female Veterans have access to all of the benefits male Veterans enjoy, including Veterans health care and pharmacy programs, educational benefits, compensation for disabilities, VA home loans, and job assistance.
“Some women Veterans may not know about high-quality VA care and services available to them,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The hotline will allow us to field their questions and provide critical information about the latest enhancements in VA services.”
The hotline for women Veterans (1-855-VA-WOMEN) is the latest in a growing suite of hotlines the VA is hosting to make sure critical information regarding available assistance is quickly available to Veterans. Female Veterans may also visit the Center for Women Veterans for additional information and programs available specifically for women.
Other Available Hotlines
Other hotlines available to both male and female Veterans include a hotline for Veterans in crisis (considering suicide) and another for Veterans facing the possibility or reality of homelessness. Veterans can receive information and apply for benefits online at VA’s www.eBenefits.va.gov and manage their health care at MyHealtheVet.va.gov.
I worked for 35 years in the civil litigation world where U.S. companies are accused of hiding evidence and refusing to take responsibility for the health and safety of their employees, and I can say those accusations have been proven true in some cases. There was definitely a desire to cover up for financial gain.
Let me qualify this paragraph that these comments are my opinion only and not those of Legacy Beyond Valor. But as I have been researching the web for Agent Orange, Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune, and now Asbestos exposure, I see a government that is being completely open and accepts responsibility where they have learned their personnel have fallen ill and need medical assistance. If you go to the link I provide in the next paragraph, and if you follow the links on that page to other pages, you will see that the VA describes how they got into using asbestos products, where they were used, and how they have now come to realize they were dangerous to those who worked with them. Not only no cover-up, but instead statements of regret and acceptance of responsibility.
I am not going to repeat the enormous detail given on the VA website regarding Asbestos exposure. Instead, I highly recommend you go to the site and read in detail how open they are regarding who was exposed and what they plan to do for them. I am going to simply point veterans who have come down with mesothelioma or cancer to the following links where they can file a claim and begin receiving assistance.
Did you serve in any of the following occupations?
- Shipyard work,
- Insulation work,
- Demolition of old buildings,
- Carpentry and construction,
- Manufacturing and installation of products such as flooring, roofing, cement sheet, pipe products, or
- Servicing of friction products such as clutch facings and brake linings.
Did you serve in Iraq or any other Middle Eastern country?
- You must be a Veteran who was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
- You must have been exposed to asbestos while in military service.
- You must have a disease or disability related to the asbestos exposure that occurred in military service.
- Your military record must show you actually served where Asbestos exposure is known to have occurred; such as the Middle East.
- You must have served in one of the specialties the VA has identified (see the list above, but do not assume it is all-inclusive).
- You must claim and have evidence of a medical diagnosis of a disease or disability known to be related to asbestos.
- Your military record must connect your service to one of the known exposures.
How to Apply
- Apply online using the eBenefits portal, OR
- Work with an accredited representative or agent, OR
- Go to a VA regional office and have a VA employee assist you. You can find your regional office on our Facility Locator page
- For more information on how to apply and for tips on making sure your claim is ready to be processed by VA, visit our How to Apply
Learn more about health risks related to asbestos exposure from the VA Office of Public Health. If you are concerned about health problems associated with exposure to asbestos during your military service, talk to your health care provider or local VA Environmental Health Coordinator. If you are a Veteran, but are not enrolled in the VA health care system, you can find out if you qualify for VA health care.