A VA program that is supposed to help veterans obtain low-cost health care may be so backed up that it cannot pay doctors on time. As a consequence, many veterans are now being hit with medical bills they cannot afford, and as such taking major damage on their credit scores.
The VA's Veterans Choice program, which is supposed to give former servicemembers access to the physicians they want to see, is instead causing major credit problems, according to a report from the Military Times. Because of the delayed payments many may face when they seek treatment from non-VA doctors, the bills are passed on to patients themselves. And when they're not paid, they're sent to collections, potentially bringing a veteran's score down by more than 100 points.
"Now this veteran has damaged health and damaged credit due to the VA," Ruiz said during a House Veterans' Affairs subcommittee hearing. "This damage that veterans suffer due to the VA's reimbursement system is irreparable and unacceptable."
For its part, the VA says that about 7 in 10 doctor's visits have their bills paid within 30 days, the report said. However, it should be noted that this is in comparison with a rate of 99 percent of visits being taken care of within the same time period via Medicaid, so the VA still has some catching up to do in that regard. This fact was also covered in a recent audit of the VA, which found the government organization does not have sufficient "program controls" to operate effectively.
This is certainly an issue veterans will need to monitor closely, as their decisions around use of the Veterans Choice program could have a major impact on a number of aspects of their lives.