It is well known that the United States government, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Veterans Health Administration have all been plagued by scandal after scandal when it comes to many veterans’ health care issues after their military service.
It is also well known that veterans are frustrated with the medical care they are receiving through the VA health care system.
This is a topic that is always discussed during the election cycle, and now with the PACT Act, it’s becoming a bigger topic with service members.
Common VA Complaints
Some of the most common complaints that I hear on almost a daily basis include concerns about unreasonably long wait times to be scheduled for appointments with VA health care providers, concerns about VA medical providers being unresponsive to patient needs, and just overall concerns about inadequate health care in general.
What I’ve found is that once a veteran is upset with the VA health care system, that frustration tends to impact the veteran in every other aspect of their life.
Basically, there’s a trickle-down effect.
What can I do if my VA isn’t helping?
As an advocate, I always encourage my clients to make sure that they are receiving regular and ongoing medical treatment for all impairments.
The reason for that advice is simple: if a veteran is trying to prove a service-connected disability, in-service event, and/or trying to prove that their disabilities have worsened, the first thing that the VA is going to do is look to see if the veteran has current and ongoing medical treatment.
If there is no current treatment, then the VA’s default position is normally to assume that the veteran’s disabilities aren’t that severe. In other words, the VA’s thought is that if the condition actually exists or if the condition is severe, then the veteran would be getting treatment.
The reality is that there are many different reasons why a veteran may not be receiving medical care.
However, the unfortunate part is that when the VA Regional Office evaluates the strength of a VA disability claim, the underlying reasons why a veteran is not receiving treatment don’t seem to matter.
To the VA, either the veteran is being treated or not, resulting in the VA believing that either the disabilities are serious or, in the case of non-treatment, that they are not.
The good news is, for veterans who have stopped treating at the VA due to frustration with their health care, there are some options.
I admit that these options aren’t the perfect solution and that there may be some red tape to get through the process, but I believe these options are definitely worth a try.
VA healthcare Patient Advocacy Program
If a veteran is having an issue with their VA health care, the Patient Advocacy Program may be a viable option.
Each VA medical facility has a Patient Advocate, and that person’s job is solely to help veterans with concerns related to VA health care issues.
Of course, the VA always encourages veterans to attempt to resolve problems through their assigned treatment team first.
In other words, if there is an issue with any members of the treatment team, the veteran is encouraged to discuss those issues with the treatment team first or within the chain of command for the treatment team.
However, if that doesn’t work or if the veteran doesn’t feel comfortable with the treatment team, I believe that veterans can and should reach out to the Patient Advocate.
The Patient Advocate’s job is to act as a liaison between the veteran and the treatment team in order to effectively resolve problems.
Therefore, veterans should utilize this resource whenever necessary in order to help effectuate change.
For more information about the Patient Advocacy Program, please click here.
The Veterans Choice Program
The Veterans Choice Program is a newer VA program, just developed within the last few years.
The purpose of the Choice Program is to give veterans faster access to health care and to help alleviate the VA’s backlog by giving veterans access to the care that they need through the private sector.
There are a few different ways for a veteran to be eligible for the Choice Program.
The veteran must be enrolled in VA health care and also meet at least one of the criteria below:
- The veteran is not able to be seen by a doctor at their local VA facility within 30 days
- The veteran lives more than 40 miles away from a VA medical facility
- The veteran faces an unusual or excessive burden in traveling to a VA medical facility based on geographic challenges, environmental factors, or a medical condition
- The veteran lives in a State or Territory without a full-service VA medical facility, for example, Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire (with some exceptions), and the U.S. Territories (excluding Puerto Rico)
Importantly, if a veteran is deemed eligible for the Choice Program, participation in that program should not otherwise affect the veteran’s eligibility to receive health care through the main VA system.
Additionally, the veteran’s VA copayments should remain the same, whether or not the care is received through the VA or privately through the Choice Program.
For more information about the Veterans Choice Program, please go online to the VA’s website.
The veteran can also contact their local VAMC facility in order to get more information.
As an advocate, I strongly encourage my clients to consider the Choice Program as a viable option.
A Look At Other Service-Connected VA Disability Benefits
There are many VA benefits and services that I encourage veterans to look into beyond the health benefits to see if they qualify.
- Disability Compensation
- Education Benefits
- Home Loan
- Career Counseling, Resources, and Support
- Mental Health Counseling and Support
- State Specific Benefits
- Funeral and Burial Benefits
- Veterans Crisis Line
- Spouse and Family Benefits
Some various terms and conditions apply to each kind of benefit, but our law firm can help navigate the paperwork and systems in place, so every veteran gets the benefits they deserve.
Have Questions About Appealing Your Claim or Understanding How the Claims Process Works?
The attorneys at Hill & Ponton are here to support you with appealing a claim.
If you are intending to appeal a denied claim, you can contact us for an evaluation and we can help you with this process.
However, if you are considering filing an initial claim, or even if you are interested in learning about the appeals process, we offer a free ebook to get you started on the right foot!
The Road to VA Compensation Benefits will help break down the claims process from start to finish. Click the link below to learn more.
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