Family upset with new veterans Choice Card

On the heels of a scandal-filled year for the Department of Veterans Affairs, there is new controversy over the veterans choice card

The federal Department of Veterans Affairs faced a scandal-filled year, and now there is new controversy over a new program.

The problem centers on what's called the Choice Card. The goal is help more veterans get access to healthcare. If they live more than 40 miles from a Veterans Administration hospital or clinic, they get a choice to pick their own provider. The VA created the Choice Card to improve patient access.

However, the Autrys of Oneida are not satisfied. They are concerned over how the VA measures their 40 miles.

When John Autry received his veterans Choice Card in the mail he says he was thrilled.

"It was overwhelming, the excitement," said Autry, "Like, you know, I no longer have to run all these miles up on a vehicle."

Autry lives more than an hour away from the closes VA facility. With the new card, he hoped for a shorter drive. But he said a VA representative told him the new option does not apply to him.

Even though Google maps show Autry's house in Oneida is 42 miles away from the closest VA clinic in LaFollete, the administration measures in nautical miles. They told Autry that through their measurements, the distance is actually under 40 miles.

"If you're with a 40-mile radius of a VA healthcare," explained VA Chief of Business Steven Hillis, "then the mileage no longer comes into play."

Autry has another concern. His father, Jake Autry, is also a veteran who served for 3 1/2 years aboard the USS Wright, picking up bomb debris and steering at the helm. His medical needs make long travel difficult.

"I have half capacity in my lungs," says Jake Autry, "I've been fighting this last attack for about eight weeks."

Hillis says they do offer solutions for people who find themselves at an inconvenience.

"If you're in a geographic area where you have mountains to overcome," said Hillis, "they can seek an appeal."

That's just what the Autrys plan to do.

"Take care of the veterans," said John Autry, "That's what they promised us."


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