For a brief, shining moment last year, the nation was consumed with the scandal at the Veterans Administration, where veterans were denied medical treatment or had to wait months to get it.
Then, politicians got their pound of flesh — the resignation of the head of the VA — and the scandal quickly faded for sight.
But many veterans still aren’t able to get timely help and KARE 11 says it has proof.
A program launched last November to help veterans who are stuck with long delays and are 40 miles from a VA clinic doesn’t work — or at least it doesn’t work like it’s supposed, the station says. The program allows veterans to see non-VA doctors.
It used one veteran with cancer as an example:
Walker wanted to show KARE 11 what happened when he tried using the Choice Card Veterans Affairs sent him, so he called the number on his card while Investigative Reporter A.J. Lagoe watched. “I want to see about getting preauthorization to get cancer treatment at a facility closer to me,” Walker told the operator. But he was told he was not eligible under the 40 mile rule because the Northwest Metro VA Clinic in Ramsey is only 20 miles from his home. The frustrated veteran told the woman handling his Choice Card call that the Ramsey clinic does not offer the cancer treatment he needs. “All they do is dental work there and eye work and some basic kinds of different minor things,” he told her. “But I have cancer stage 4.” Paul’s reasoning that the clinic near him doesn’t offer the treatment he needs got him nowhere. “I don’t get a choice. I get to die. So, to me that’s not a choice,” he said.
Another veteran in Crow Wing County who wanted to see a psychiatrist in St. Cloud couldn’t get an appointment under the program because there’s a clinic close to him in Brainerd. The clinic in Brainerd doesn’t have a psychiatrist, however.
“The supposed VA choice is nothing more than a bill of goods that they sold us,” attorney Benjamin Krause, a disabled vet and Twin Cities-based attorney focusing on veterans’ issues, told the station.
He says the VA is trying to cut the program and use the money elsewhere because few veterans are using it.