VA speeds Valley veterans’ access to health care

HARLINGEN — Veterans Administration’s medical claims were being denied, making veterans wait long periods for medical appointments.

Those were just some of the problems with the VA that have long been documented.

There are thousands of statements and anecdotes that back up claims of not only veterans waiting months to be seen, but also hospitals waiting months to be paid for services rendered to veterans, if they were even paid at all.

That’s why during the past three months, the VA, U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-McAllen) and local health leaders gathered to come up with a way to provide improved and more timely care to veterans.

The plan and ideas could become a model used across the country to address improving local care, access and payment processes.

So far, so good.

During a 90-day period, the VA has worked with hospitals and other health care providers to cut the denial rate of claims from 50 percent to 10 percent.

“Doctors didn’t want to take them (veterans) because it was taking too long to pay” the providers, Dr. Richard Stone, the VA’s principal deputy under secretary for health, said yesterday in a press conference at the Regional Academic Health Center announcing this coordinated effort between the private and public organizations.

These remedies are needed just a couple years after Congress created the Choice program in response to the wait time crisis. It allowed veterans who are waiting 30 days or more for a VA appointment or have to travel 40 miles for care to seek it from private providers in the community, like Valley Baptist Medical Center.

However, according to Stone, the program wasn’t working as hoped and needed some attention. Problems and solutions were addressed, the main one being late payments and non payments of claims for the veterans.

There are several aspects to refining the processes, such as ensuring provider claims are paid on time, while increasing the quality and timeliness of health care provided close to home for Valley veterans.

Among the issues recognized were mainly bureaucratic and paperwork problems that required additional training.

For the rest of this story and many other EXTRAS, go to our premium site,

Subscribe to it for only $6.99 per month or purchase a print subscription and receive the online version free, which includes an electronic version of the full newspaper and extra photo galleries, links and other information you can’t find anywhere else.