VA Choice, the government-run option for veterans seeking health care, has received a boost from a key donor and is now available to veterans who meet criteria.
The announcement Tuesday from Veterans Choice, a nonprofit that helps veterans find health care providers, comes as the government prepares to roll out a second, more costly version of the program, VA Choice Plus, that will cost more to administer.
Veterans Choice has already helped more than 1.5 million vets get medical care, with more than 400,000 veterans getting the program this year.
The new VA Choice program is more costly than the current VA Choice for Veterans and has fewer benefits.
Veteran advocates have praised the new version of VA Choice as an alternative that gives vets access to services like primary care, dental care and prescription drugs.
But some have questioned the program’s cost, noting that Veterans Choice currently costs $8,000 a year.
That money is only available for VA Choice veterans, who must also pay out-of-pocket for prescriptions and outpatient care.
That means veterans who do not have a VA Choice or VA Choice Advantage can’t afford it.VA Choice has been plagued by problems, including fraud, over-representation of minority veterans and delays in getting vets benefits.
The program has faced criticism in the past for providing a patchwork of services.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Office last year found that veterans had been denied access to more than $8 million in care for medical problems, which were caused by delays in VA Choice’s delivery system.
The office found that about 50% of veterans who got VA Choice were ineligible for services because they had been discharged before they could receive care.
In a statement, the Department of Defense said it is committed to providing veterans with quality health care.
The department’s Office of Inspector General said the new VAChoice program has a “more streamlined process for eligibility and enrollment.”
Veterans have been waiting months for VA Health Care Choice, which began in August 2018, but that program, which includes some of the same services as VA Choice but requires a veteran to apply for and pay more, has not yet been fully implemented.
The VA Health Choice program was supposed to be available to all vets by the end of October.