President Donald Trump signed a bill extending critical funding for the Veterans Choice Program, impacting thousands in our region.
It allows vets to get care from a private doctor, if they live 40 miles away from a VA hospital of if the wait for a doctor is too long. Veterans in our region are faced with a unique situation.
For more than a decade, Ronald Waggoner has been giving veterans a lift to their doctor’s appointments. He’ll pick up veterans around the capitol region, taking them to the White River Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“It’s more of my way of paying back,” Waggoner said. Waggoner served in the army between 1981-1988.
But not every veteran has a good Samaritan, like him.
The White River Junction facility serves more than 26,000 people. It has seven satellite locations, called Community Based Outpatient Clinics. Two of them are in New Hampshire.
“It’s what works best for the veteran. Getting the veteran the care they want, where they want it, in the time frame that they want it,” Acting Director of the White River Junction VAMC Matthew Mulcahy said.
The Granite State’s rural layout, though, doesn’t make it convenient for everyone.
“So for all of the veterans who live in the state of New Hampshire, if they do not live within a twenty mile distance within the main White River Junction Campus, they are automatically eligible for the veterans choice program. Based on mileage,” Mulcahy said.
What Mulcahy is talking about, is the Veterans Choice Program. It helps people get access to care providers closer to home. The Veterans Choice Act was signed into law in 2014, and Congress approves its funding from taxpayer dollars. The Senate approved an extension earlier this week. New Hampshire is one of three states in the nation with unique requirements for eligibility.
“We actually have a care coordinator located up in the North Country, to assist our veterans in navigating through choice or getting care in the community,” Lindsay Morse said.
Morse oversees the Office of Community Care, which officially opened at the VAMC about 100 days ago.
“70 percent of the interactions that’s with my staff that’s up in that North Country are to navigate through choice,” Morse said.
So whether a veteran decides to stay close to home or makes the trip to White River Junction, the choice is their’s.
People like Waggoner, will be there.
“You can always find veterans helping other veterans,” Waggoner said.
Making sure those who serve get the services they need.
Officials at the VA do not have information to offer at this time about how much money the facility in White River Junction will receive from the new funding signed into law.