Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly recently spoke on the floor of the Senate about the Veterans Choice Program, and the challenges Hoosier veterans are experiencing with its implementation. Donnelly shared the stories of a few Hoosier veterans who have had issues with the Veterans Choice Program, including veterans in South Bend and Marion. Donnelly’s office has heard from Hoosier veterans experiencing long wait times and other issues with scheduling appointments and accessing their benefits through the Choice Program – and worked to help these veterans. Last month, following reports that Hoosier veterans were experiencing long call wait times and being disconnected on Choice Program phone lines administered by Virginia-based Health Net Federal Services, Donnelly sent a letter to the company’s CEO calling for answers.
In his speech, Donnelly said, “Unfortunately, there are repeated examples of the Veterans Choice Program coming up short. It is our responsibility as legislators to review, to follow-up, and to ask questions about this program we helped put in place, to make sure it’s working correctly and efficiently. I stand here today to tell you that some Indiana veterans are experiencing problems with the Choice Program—and we must work to address these issues and to solve them.
“What our veterans are going through to schedule appointments and access their benefits through the Choice Program is completely unacceptable…I will work non-stop to end this problem. And our office will continue to work non-stop to make sure we get to the bottom of the problems that our Hoosier veterans are having with the Veterans Choice Program – they gave too much to this country to be treated this way. We will solve these problems for Hoosier veterans and for every American veteran.”
The bipartisan Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which Donnelly supported and voted for, was signed into law in August 2014. Donnelly has been active in making improvements to the law, including on a provision that allows veterans to access non-VA providers if they live more than 40 miles from a VA health facility or face “an unusual or excessive burden” in accessing VA care. In late 2014 and again in early 2015, Donnelly and U.S. Representative Pete Visclosky (IN-01) sent the VA two letters requesting the VA consider travel times and the distance from appropriate care, rather than simply the straight-line distance from a veteran’s home to the nearest VA facility.
To watch Senator Donnelly’s speech, click the image above, or click HERE.