Officials clear-up vets' concerns about healthcare - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Officials clear-up vets' concerns about healthcare

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Officials for both the Guam Department of Veterans Affairs and Triwest - the company contracted to operate the Choice Card Program in Guam - have arrived on island to clear-up concerns of island veterans.

It was back in the Spring of 2014 when a national outrage over the quality of veteran care led Congress to pass the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act. This created the Choice Card program, which allows veterans to seek healthcare at private clinics instead of VA hospitals. But according to VA Pacific Island Healthcare System coordinator Thomas Driskill, ambiguity in the wording of the law meant it wasn't until April 2015 that the VA determined the Choice Card Program was, in fact, applicable to Guam, as it is in Hawaii and the rest of the 50 states. "There has been a lot of confusion and I want to acknowledge that, these new programs are complex," he explained.  

As KUAM News had previously reported - veterans were being told they were ineligible for the program, because of a disconnect in communication between Washington, DC and Triwest officials in Hawaii, something Driskill says the VA a takes responsibility for, and has corrected. Triwest Pacific regional director Karl Kiyokawa says Triwest's Hawaii office now serves veterans in Guam and Hawaii.

"We started our dedicated Guam team, so the Guam team now comes in on Sunday, Hawaii time, which is Monday, Guam time," he said. "And we adjust the hours so they're there till 11 o'clock at night Hawaii time which services the Guam veteran population, CNMI as well. With respect to the providers in Guam, CNMI, and American Samoa, we are working together with our partners, a company called Netcare very well established here in Guam. They've already put together a network and that network continues to grow."

He added, "The Choice program also allows veterans to seek care from non-network providers, so the provider doesn't necessarily have to be on the list. We have what we call a 'mini-credentialing process' that that non-network provider can move through to enable them to not only service the veteran, but to get paid for that service going to the veteran."

Veterans can call 866-606-8198 to set an appointment or to learn more about the program. But the Choice Card program isn't the only issue affecting veterans, as concerns have been raised regarding access to medical care at Naval Hospital.

Local veterans like Rodney Cruz, who is the president of the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of the Pacific organization, expressed his concerns about a new policy that requires veterans - who may have an emergency-must first be assessed by an ambulance at the front gate to naval hospital before being allowed entry to the ER.  

Martin Manglona said, "At no time can a veteran go in without his veterans card and his appointment 156 this is a military installation under the department of defense, 200 it's not under VA 201 they have to follow regulations." Manglona says it's a longstanding policy that has only recently been enforced. 

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