VA 'Choice' program fails to help vets in need of transplants

KVUE Defenders: Distance, delays and denial

SAN ANTONIO - More Veterans say they’re facing distance, delays and denials by the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

“They found a cancerous tumor on my liver,” said Vietnam veteran Jeffery Cadle.

“I lived in a bunker about 12 feet under the ground,” he said, describing his tour.

Cadle now lives in San Antonio. The VA said Cadle needed a liver transplant, and they want to send him to Houston. He doesn’t know if the surgery is worth risking his livelihood.

“The inconvenience of being in Houston for an extended period of time would jeopardize my business,” said Cadle.

KVUE Defenders exposed how long distance transplants put patients’ lives at risk. The VA denied it.

Then, we found out the VA quietly changed its mind. They told San Antonio’s VA office transplant care can be done locally. Use a program called “Choice” to pay for it.

“We knew there would be some hurdles, but we didn’t envision this many hurdles,” said Jamie McBride, a transplant coordinator at the VA.

He’s also a whistleblower.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” said McBride.

Cadle was approved to go to a hospital locally, but the VA sent him a letter saying the Choice coverage would not cover the costs.

“(The letter) says that at this time we are unable to use the Tri-West Choice Insurance. Your clinic appointment has been canceled,” read Cadle.

“Basically, our patients are in limbo once again,” said McBride.

The Defenders found Choice contracts don’t always pay hospitals its fair share. The American Academy of Family Physicians said the Choice program offers “reimbursement rates that are 30 percent less than the Medicare physician payment rate.”

It’s not affordable for hospitals.

“Round and round we go and in the meantime, we have people stuck in limbo and can’t get the surgery and the care they need,” said McBride.

“I was elated. It was very good news at the time,” said Cadle. “I went from being elated to being disappointed that they weren’t going to do it due to lack of funding.”

Cadle is left waiting.  He doesn’t know if how he will get the help he needs or if it would come in time.

Scroll down for additional KVUE Defenders coverage on Distance, delays and denial.

2015 AAFP letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald by kvuenews on Scribd

(© 2016 KVUE)


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