The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has mailed the first batch of Choice Cards, along with letters explaining how they work, to approximately 320,000 Veterans. This group was selected to be the first to receive the Choice Cards due to the proximity of their residence to the nearest VA facility being greater than forty miles.
The second phase of Choice card issuance will begin on or about Thanksgiving Day. The second group will consist of approximately 370,000 Veterans who are facing wait times for VA medical appointments that exceed thirty days.
The third phase is expected to continue through the end of January. By that time, the remaining 8 million Veterans enrolled in VA healthcare will be issued their Choice Cards.
The Choice Card gets its name from the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, which is commonly referred to as the “Choice Act.” The card itself helps Veterans to receive healthcare outside of the VA system. Veterans should know that the card does not permit them to seek appointments at any physician at their own discretion. Before a Choice Card can be used, eligibility must be verified and advance authorization must be obtained from a VA program manager. The card simply expedites the Veteran’s ability to show proof of medical coverage to non-VA medical providers once that approval is granted. Veterans should also know that the Choice Card does not replace their VA identification card. They will still need that card as well.
In order to be issued a Choice Card, Veterans must have been enrolled in the VA healthcare system by August 1, 2014. Veterans who enrolled after that date are still eligible for the temporary benefit, but only if they served on active duty in a theater of combat operations within the last five years.
The Choice Card benefit is set to end in three years, or whenever the VA spends all of the $10 billion set aside to fund the program.
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Military Connection: First Choice Cards Mailed: By Debbie Gregory