VA reps to answer questions on Veterans Choice Program

By Larry Jelinek

Special to The SUN

Area veterans who are in the VA health care system are beginning to receive their Veterans Choice Cards. Raymond Taylor, veteran service officer (VSO), the American Legion and Veterans for Veterans have been receiving a large number of questions concerning the program.

The VA is sending representatives to Pagosa Springs on Tuesday, Dec. 2, to talk about the Veterans Choice Program and answer our veterans questions so they can make an intelligent decision on receiving heath care services. This meeting will take place at the Quality Resort in the dining area. Since it is the first Tuesday of the month, this is our monthly breakfast meeting. There will be breakfast at 9 a.m. with the meeting starting at 10 a.m. Please keep your questions on topic.

The rollout of the Veterans Choice Program has not gone smoothly and, so far, there are no providers listed in the system. This will change over the next week, as the VA hopes to have the hospital/clinic as part of the program by Dec. 2. If there are other medical providers in the area who accept Medicare rates, they should contact the New Mexico VA Health Care System to be vetted and added to the program.

Medical providers are welcome to attend the meeting on Dec. 2 to learn about the program.

Veterans who live 40 miles from the Durango clinic (geodesic distance) should have received their cards already. Veterans who are currently waiting for an appointment longer than 30 days from their preferred date or the date determined to be medically necessary by their physician, their cards were mailed this week. All remaining veterans enrolled for VA health care who may be eligible for the choice program in the future will be receiving their cards within the next month.

Since the VA is determining the miles from the facility using geodesic distance (point to point/straight line) most of the veterans living in the Aspen Springs area were not included in the 40-mile distance. We are working on this issue with U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, Senator Michael Bennet and other congressional staff to get an exception or change the method for determining the distance.

We think we have a means for the exemption and will use Taylor as our test case to see if it works. If so, we will provide veterans in the Aspen Springs area with instructions on how to qualify/receive the exemption.

VA representatives will walk you through the process/program, informing you what the program is, what services you can elect to get here locally, procedures for obtaining services, how the VA will cover/pay for these services, plus answer any other questions you may have.

The Veterans for Veterans of Archuleta County meet weekly at the Quality Resort on the west side of town Tuesdays at 10 a.m.

Veterans for Veterans of Archuleta County is a local nonprofit organization developed to meet the needs of local veterans including financial assistance, help during a move, transportation to a medical appointment, help in filing VA claims or dealing with the VA, providing firewood or water, help paying rent and utilities, finding housing/assistance for homeless veterans, computer/technical assistance, help during emotional distress, visiting shut-in veterans and those in the nursing home plus much more.

It is only through the generosity of our compassionate donors that the Veterans for Veterans of Archuleta County can offer its support to Archuleta County veterans and their families in times of great stress. If you would like to make a donation to help our local veterans, you can mail it to Veterans for Veterans of Archuleta County, P.O. Box 5331, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147.