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Manchester VA Says "Veterans Choice" Program Not Perfect But Improving

Paige Sutherland/NHPR
The Manchester VA says "Veterans Choice" Program has cut payment delays but still working out the kinks.

Earlier this month a report revealed that the Manchester VA Hospital, like many others around the country, had been fudging wait times for veterans’ care.

But the program designed to fix the backlog by allowing vets to get care closer to home is now having its own problems.

For some time, health care providers in New Hampshire have complained about delays in payments from Veterans Choice. That’s the program designed to let veterans receive care in their communities rather than at VA hospitals.

Some providers grew so frustrated, they refused to participate in Veterans Choice.

At a forum in Manchester Tuesday night, Manchester VA Medical Director Danielle Ocker told the vets in attendance that officials have fixed many of the kinks and have more than doubled the amount of claims paid out last month.

“Because of the volume, we do have some challenges, and I think what I really want you to hear is that we are working very closely with Health Net [the private contractor used to manage payments] to resolve those, and we are working very closely with our congressional partners,” Ocker said.

But veterans like Jim Jensen of Merrimack say it’s not the VA, but the middle man hired to get payments to providers that’s the issue.

“The only bottleneck I’ve experienced in the VA system is this contractor that Congress has put between the veterans and the Veterans Choice program, which is a wonderful thing,” Jensen said.

Earlier in the day U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen called on the VA to make fixing this “dysfunctional user experience” with the contractor Health Net - a priority.

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