Department of Veterans Affairs
Office of Inspector General (50)
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
VA Medical Center
7305 N Military Trail
West Palm Beach, FL 33410
To whom it may concern:
On July 11, 2017 retired Master Sergeant Charles Frederick Tolbert received a call in the West Palm Beach veterans administration to schedule an appointment for an eye examination.
Upon discussing the choice program with the representative from the West Palm Beach VA, I was informed that they do not use the distance to determine whether the veteran is eligible for the chores program. The determination is based on availability of an appointment rather than the time or distance of travel.
The administrator who was discussing this with me was not able to follow the regulations based on the administrative policies of the West Palm Beach Veterans administration staff. She explained the regulation she was required to administer, and apologized, stating she had to follow the availability of appointments and not distance.
A disabled veteran would require an escort that would take time and money of his/her assistant and other members, when in fact the soldier could have gone to a local eye doctor within a few minutes drive of his/her home address.
From my physical address to West Palm Beach, the Veterans Administration is 45 miles and would take up to one hour to drive.
Therefore under the choice program, I am eligible to be assigned to a local doctor. However according to the rules established by West Palm Beach VA, I am not eligible due to the fact that they use the availability of appointment scheduling time rather than distance
The veterans administration in West Palm Beach says the rules they follow are not based on distance but availability of a doctor, therefore West Palm Beach Veterans Administration is violating the choice program and is causing hardships on veterans.
My physical address is:
12626 SE 126th Blvd, Okeechobee, FL 34974
West Palm Beach VA’s address is:
Department of Veterans Affairs Medical …
7305 N Military Trl, West Palm Beach
Veterans administration choice program
GAO reviewed the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) new rule on driving distance eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program. GAO found that (1) the interim final rule (a) amends the regulations implementing section 101 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which directed VA to establish a program to furnish hospital care and medical services through eligible non-VA health care providers to eligible veterans who either cannot be seen within the wait-time goals of the Veterans Health Administration or who qualify based on their place of residence (hereafter referred to as the Veterans Choice Program, or the Program); (b) the final rule modifies how VA measures the distance from a veteran’s residence to the nearest VA medical facility; (c) this modified standard will consider the distance the veteran must drive to the nearest VA medical facility, rather than the straight-line or geodesic distance to such a facility; and (2) VA complied with applicable requirements in promulgating the rule.
May 11, 2015
The Honorable Johnny Isakson
The Honorable Richard Blumenthal
Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
United States Senate
The Honorable Jeff Miller
The Honorable Corrine Brown
Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
House of Representatives
Subject: Department of Veterans Affairs: Driving Distance Eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program
Pursuant to section 801(a)(2)(A) of title 5, United States Code, this is our report on a major rule promulgated by the Department of Veterans Affairs entitled “Driving Distance Eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program” (RIN: 2900-AP24). We received the rule on April 20, 2015. It was published in the Federal Register as an interim final rule on April 24, 2015. 80 Fed. Reg. 22,906.
The interim final rule amends the regulations implementing section 101 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which directed VA to establish a program to furnish hospital care and medical services through eligible non-VA health care providers to eligible veterans who either cannot be seen within the wait-time goals of the Veterans Health Administration or who qualify based on their place of residence (hereafter referred to as the Veterans Choice Program, or the Program). The interim final rule modifies how VA measures the distance from a veteran’s residence to the nearest VA medical facility. This modified standard will consider the distance the veteran must drive to the nearest VA medical facility, rather than the straight-line or geodesic distance to such a facility.
The Congressional Review Act (CRA) requires a 60-day delay in the effective date of a major rule from the date of publication in the Federal Register or receipt of the rule by Congress, whichever is later. 5 U.S.C. § 801(a)(3)(A). The final rule has a stated effective date of April 24, 2015. The rule was received on April 20, 2015, and was published in the Federal Register on April 24, 2015. Therefore, the final rule does not have the required 60-day delay in its effective date. The 60-day delay in effective date can be waived, however, if the agency finds for good cause that delay is impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest, and the agency incorporates a statement of the findings and its reasons in the rule issued. 5 U.S.C. §§ 553(d)(3), 808(2). VA determined that there was good cause to publish this rule with an immediate effective date in order for veterans who need access to health care under the Veterans Choice Program have that access as soon as possible.
Enclosed is our assessment of VA’s compliance with the procedural steps required by section 801(a)(1)(B)(i) through (iv) of title 5 with respect to the rule. Our review of the procedural steps taken indicates that VA complied with the applicable requirements.
If you have any questions about this report or wish to contact GAO officials responsible for the evaluation work relating to the subject matter of the rule, please contact Shirley A. Jones, Assistant General Counsel, at (202) 512-8156.
Robert J. Cramer
Managing Associate General Counsel
cc: Michael Shores
Chief Impact Analyst, Regulation Policy Management
Office of the General Counsel
Department of Veterans Affairs
In summary; the veterans administration hospitals and clinics, do not follow the rules and regulations, nor are they linked together by computer in order to review a soldier’s records.
It’s the responsibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington DC to re-organize, re-establish, and hire technicians to ensure that all veteran hospitals are linked.
It is further advised that all veterans hospitals are closed and clinics are left open, and all veterans, regardless of disability, are issued a tri-care insurance card allowing the protectors of our country to go to a local doctor with HMO and PPO with all rights.
Charles Frederick Tolbert EdD
Retired Master Sergeant United States Army, Vietnam veteran 20% disability
Copy Editor, Vilet Dye…firstname.lastname@example.org
Veterans administration choice program update July 26, 2017
According to a representative from the West Palm Beach choice program a veteran is not eligible if they do not have a physical address on file and have only a mailing address.
When I was contacted by the veterans administration in West Palm Beach, I was informed I had to have one address and removing one would affect my being eligible for the choice program, my-physical address was removed.
The Choice representative from the program in West Palm Beach informed me that when they removed that physical address it was not his concern, and I would have to re-contact the enrollment center in West Palm Beach and attach both mailing address and physical address to my file.
According to the individual in the enrollment program I could only have one address and the second would be confidential. Veteran’s are not being briefed according to the representative from the enrollment program. He also stated they were not aware of the fact or had been briefed that there is a requirement for a physical address for the enrollment program.
The representative of the West Palm Beach choice program took the position that it is not his issue what the enrollment branch did, in fact he was responding to a letter only to make a statement of my ineligibility and not the error on the part of the enrollment or other facilities in West Palm Beach.
The choice program representative could not update my records and I was referred to the enrollment center who in fact could not and did not understand how to correct the problem and had to follow up with her supervisor.
Over the last 60 days I have discussed the choice programs with over 100 veterans in West Palm Beach who informed me they’re not eligible based on the 30 day wait. They are not being given due consideration.
The representative further stated it is a requirement that your local clinic takes into consideration your capacity or injuries in addition to time and distance of the veteran to determine whether or not you should be on the choice program.
He also stated that in February there were new rules and regulations that were passed changing the procedures which in fact did not change my information to him.
The Changes were related to the funding which was done and signed in by President Trump.
Please visit the following web links to be better educated. A copy of this letter will be furnished to The Department of Veterans Affairs, West Palm Beach, and will be posted accordingly.
This is a follow up and addition to the original letter written on July 12, 2017
April 16, 2017
Law 115-26, the sunset
If you are already enrolled in VA health care, the Choice Program allows you to receive health care within your community. Using this program does NOT impact your existing VA health care, or any other VA benefit.
On April 19, 2017, President Trump signed a law that removes the August, 7, 2017, expiration date and allows VA to utilize funding dedicated to the Veterans Choice Program (VCP) until it is exhausted. The VCP is a critical program that increases access to care for Veterans by authorizing millions of appointments for Veterans in the community.
5. What options does a VA medical facility have to purchase community care for Veterans?
VA medical facility staff should consider the Veteran’s eligibility for VCP when reviewing options for community care. If the Veteran is eligible based on residence (40 miles from their residence to the closest VA medical facility), wait times (30 days from the clinically indicated date), or other criteria (such as special criteria for residents of Alaska, Hawaii and New Hampshire) they should continue to be sent to VCP community care providers. If the Veteran does not have one of these eligibilities, the facility should consider all available options in purchasing care based on local facility funding while ensuring seamless care for the Veteran.
Copy Editor, Vilet Dye…email@example.com