AMVETS in Action

An Open Letter to America’s Veterans from Secretary Bob McDonald


At the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), we have one of the most noble and inspiring missions in Government. I accepted this job and joined this mission to better serve you—our Veterans—and improve the delivery of the care and benefits you have earned. It is our privilege to serve you, and I have made clear that as we move forward as a Department, we will judge the success of all our efforts against a single metric—the outcomes we provide for Veterans.

The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), enacted less than 3-months ago, goes a long way toward enabling VA to meet the demand for Veterans health care in the short-term. VA has put considerable focus and attention on ensuring the law is implemented seamlessly, without confusion, and without creating hardships for Veterans. This legislation provides authorities, funding, and other tools to better serve Veterans in the short-term. We are appreciative of this temporary measure to improve access while we build capacity within the VA system to better serve those who rely on us for health care.

From June 1 to September 30, 2014, VA completed more than 19 million Veteran appointments in our facilities and made nearly 1.1 million authorizations for Veterans to receive care in the private sector and other non-VA health facilities—a 46.6-percent increase over the same period in 2013. This was all done under existing programs prior to the passage of VACAA, and sets the stage for strengthening existing partnerships between VA and the private sector. We have much we can share with one another to the benefit of Veterans.

VA has signed contracts with two private health care companies to help VA administer the Veterans Choice Program (Choice Program) under VACAA. The Choice Program is a new, temporary benefit allowing some Veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. It does not impact your existing VA health care or any other VA benefit you may be receiving. We will begin implementing this benefit on November 5, as required by law. A call center is now operational to answer your questions and verify your eligibility for this program.

As part of this new program, we are issuing a Veterans Choice Card to every Veteran who is potentially eligible for the new, temporary health benefit. The Choice Card allows Veterans to elect to receive care outside of VA when they qualify for the new program based on the distance of their residence from a VA care facility, or when wait times for VA health care exceed the standards established in law. The Choice Card does not replace the identification card you already use to access other VA benefits; please do not throw away that identification card.

The Choice Card will be issued in three phases. The first group of Choice Cards along with a letter explaining eligibility for this program is currently being sent to Veterans who may live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The next group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent shortly thereafter to those Veterans who are currently waiting for an appointment longer than 30-days from their preferred date or the date determined to be medically necessary by their physician.

The final group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent between December 2014 and January 2015 to the remainder of all Veterans enrolled for VA health care who may be eligible for the Choice Program in the future.

We are continuing to work with our partners—Congress, Veterans Service Organizations, and others—to get the information about this health program out to Veterans in as many ways as possible. Please visit our Web site at where we have provided helpful information on Choice Program eligibility. We will work with our partners to keep you informed as we improve our delivery of high-quality, timely care.

Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Robert A. McDonald

» Facts about your Veterans Choice Card – PDF file (1 MB)

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2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to America’s Veterans from Secretary Bob McDonald

  1. This is sound reasoning, as of course those needing healthcare services with no place to go should be first, those who are elgible and waiting should be considered next, and those who may soon become elgible at a future date should not be left out in the cold.
    However the Veteran’s Administration allows its members to take advantage of the Health Care System, is their affair, my main concern is that those service provided by
    the VA are worth being taken advantage of by Veterans. It is a relief to see things attended to in the Words of Our Great Saint Paul, “All Things Ought to be done decently and in Order”. Having said that Order being the Key to Success, it is only
    the key and it may be what lies behind door number 1,2, or 3 which is the Heart of the Matter. I speak only in the Spirit that we Veteran’s, Service members, and their beloved familes might agree and in so doing bring not only order but Order in the Highest. Amen.

  2. Though the action is needed it do not solve or come close to solving VA’s over all problem, which is completing claims and disability backlog with in a six month period which is reasonable. this is the information by the numbers that the individual veteran is looking for.
    The problem with VA is they are drowning in bureaucratic legislation and administrative policy and procedures and have left out the individual veteran..

    Id Cards are good, IG inspections are good, firing person is good. and the attempt to do something is good.

    But those things mean absolutely nothing to the veterans of Gulf one, OEF/OIF Noble Eagle or the current advisor role in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Veterans are looking for the numbers by the numbers those who are starting a claim, waiting past 6 months, those who are processed, the amount of time it takes to process the claim. that is where the report should show.

    any thing out side of this is just more legislative bureaucracy and administrative policy and procedures that ill not solve va problem of efficiency. the current crisis you would think it needs more legislation and that is the problem.

    Also we as veterans know that when you are producing the type of efficiency the VA produce its just a matter of time before the whole organization goes by. they can not do the job efficiently.

    This is what by the numbers look like. thanks

    Quick Facts (As of November 21, 2014):

    Number of Outstanding Requests: 122

    Three Oldest Outstanding Requests: December 4, 2012; January 14, 2013; April 1, 2014

    Requests Pending since 2012: 1

    Requests Pending Longer than 60 days: 66

    Average Response Time: 60 Days

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