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Congress enacted the Veterans Choice program in 2014 to speed up the time it took for veterans to get care. It came in the form of a $16 billion influx to the department of Veterans Affairs. The program allows veterans to work with a third-party contractor to make appointments outside of the VA if a health-care appointment cannot be provided within 30 days, or if they live more than 40 miles from the closest VA medical facility.In April 2017, the program was extended to provide funding past the August expiration date.An analysis conducted by NPR revealed that, overall, wait times did not improve after implementation of Veterans Choice. In this series, we explore a view from the Midwest as it relates to how Veterans Choice was communicated to veterans and how it has been received by those seeking care in northern Illinois.Part One: Tweaks Made To Veterans Choice, But Overhaul Remains Elusive. Includes an interview with NPR's Quil Lawrence about his year-long investigation of wait times after Choice went into effect.Part Two: Vets Call Veterans Choice 'A Piece Of Cake,' 'A Nightmare,' And Everything In Between. Includes interviews with veterans, volunteers, and case managers.Part Three: Those Charged With Helping Veterans Share Their Views On Veterans Choice. Includes interviews with representatives of county Veterans Assistance Commissions Part Four: Regional VA Hospitals Adapt To Veterans Choice Program. Includes interviews with administrators at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital and William S. Middleton Memorial Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.

Northern Illinois Congressman Co-Sponsors Bill To Protect Veterans' Credit


A northern Illinois Congressman is part of a bipartisan effort to help veterans whose credit is affected adversely by problems associated with the federal Veterans Choice Program.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Choice Program, created in 2014, provides veterans the ability to receive medical care in a non-VA facility based on appointment availability or distance from a VA facility. The Choice Program then reimburses the veterans for medical expenses they incur from the private provider. But 14th District Congressman Randy Hultgren said that last part is causing headaches for the veterans it was supposed to help.

“The problem is, there’s been some challenges in getting that reimbursement, and sometimes that’s been affecting a veteran’s credit,” he said. “That impacts their ability to be able to purchase a home, or purchase a car, or get school loans, or other things like that.”

So Hultgren, along with several Republican and Democratic colleagues, recently reintroduced the Protecting Veterans Credit Act.

The legislation creates a one-year credit-reporting grace period for veterans to resolve debt from medical services. It also applies to VA Community health programs, which have had similar problems.

The Act, first introduced in 2016, is endorsed by a number of veterans’ organizations and consumer advocate groups.

Companion legislation has been filed in the Senate.

Guy Stephens produces news stories for the station, and coordinates our online events calendar, PSAs and Arts Calendar announcements. In each of these ways, Guy helps keep our listening community informed about what's going on, whether on a national or local level. Guy's degrees are in music, and he spent a number of years as a classical host on WNIU. In fact, after nearly 20 years with Northern Public Radio, the best description of his job may be "other duties as required."