In a new op-ed in his hometown Albuquerque Journal, Nate Banks recounts a 2018 experience with the Veterans Choice Program.
Banks, a Navy veteran and grassroots engagement director with Concerned Veterans for America, had visited a local urgent care facility with abdominal pain. He was referred to a hospital for testing, and in the course of his examination, doctors found a mass on his left kidney.
He was living in Farmington, in the northwest corner of New Mexico near the Colorado border, and planned to have surgery done at a trusted facility across the state line.
“In those days, the Veterans Choice Program oversaw referrals to community providers,” he writes. “While well-intended, the VCP was a clunky system, built on arbitrary criteria that didn’t prioritize veterans’ best interests.”
The Veterans Affairs Department denied his request to have the surgery at his preferred hospital, claiming it did not meet the criteria for non-VA care. It would have to be done at a VA facility four hours from his home and regular doctors.
“I reached out to my congressman’s district office for help,” he writes. “A few days after the office got involved, the VA relented and approved my surgery for community care. I take no pleasure in saying it took an act of Congress, figuratively, to get the VA to put my needs first.”
While Banks’ story has a happy ending, too many veterans’ health care stories don’t.
Read more about what Congress and the VA can do to expand choices for veterans in how they access the care they deserve.