A veteran’s war for wellness

Veterans see delays with healthcare

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) - More local veterans are coming forward saying the new Veteran's Choice Program through the VA is not living up to its promise.

It was designed to get veterans faster health care by allowing them to see doctors outside of the VA system
But we found this program is not only causing delays for veterans needing medical care, it's also not paying some of those doctors that see them.

Jo Wildman is proud of her more than 20 years of military service to our country. You can tell just by looking at her walls.
But she is one of many veterans still having issues getting the care she needs for PTSD and depression.

"That's exactly how I would sum it up is frustrating and it takes a lot of patients," she said.

Jo turned to the VA and enrolled in the Veteran's Choice Program to find a new doctor after her last one moved.
But so far that program is not what she expected," said Wildman.

"I thought it was going to be easier than it was and many times I just wanted to give up and say forget it."
She says it took too long for the program to find her a local provider and she's still having issues maintaining an authorization to see them for future appointments.

"Waiting that long for continued care is just really tough," said Wildman.

Veteran Mario Mancini is dealing with a similar issue. He waited months and finally heard back from the VA that a doctor in Columbus could see him for his PTSD.

"To have them go 70 miles out of town to get treatment is appalling," said Mancini.

Some providers we talked to say they won't take on any more patients from the Veteran's Choice program right now because they're not getting paid. They say the company responsible for paying the claims, Health Net, is leaving many doctors high and dry.

"Veterans are being left out in the cold and providers won't see these veterans because they know they are not going to get paid," said Veteran and Mental Health Specialist, Dr. Kathy Platoni.

When 2 NEWS Investigates first started asking questions about this problem, Dr. Platoni was owed more than $4,000 from Health Net and the VA for treating veterans like Jo.

"I don't know where the veterans are going to go for treatment at this point. It's heartbreaking," said Platoni.

Dr. Platoni said she couldn't get an answer from the VA or Health Net so she took her problem to Congressman Mike Turner's office and the Veterans' House Committee.

Natalie: "What specifically are you doing to help?"
Congressman Turner: "Obviously this is an issue of holding the people accountable who are not processing this in a timely manner and not paying the bills that are being generated--holding them accountable ensures the process will work and of course will serve our veterans."

While Congressman Turner won't comment on specific cases, he says some look like isolated incidents. Regardless, he says his office is working on getting results.

"It's an issue not just about payment of bills. It's an issue of access to care and we want to make sure it gets resolved," said Turner.

2 NEWS Investigates also continues to ask the VA and Health Net about the problem.
In a statement, a Health Net spokesperson admitted there is a backlog of claims, but said the VA has recently changed it's contract which will help speed up the process and get providers paid faster.

That's news Jo is happy to hear. But she says veterans like her deserve more.

"Fixing a broken system with another broken system doesn't work," said Wildman

After we started asking questions, Dr. Platoni says she has received a big portion of the money she was owed thanks in part to Congressman Turner's office.

He mentioned the importance of holding those responsible accountable and we believe in that too.
That's why we'll be following up and will keep you posted on any developments.

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