VA ends contractor’s duty of making appointments

JUNEAU (AP) — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is returning to using its own employees to handle appointments for Alaska veterans who need medical services outside the VA system.

State lawmakers announced Monday that TriWest Healthcare Alliance will no longer make appointments for veterans. The company will still be responsible for billing and maintaining relationships with medical professionals, The Alaska Public Radio Network reported.

Triwest was hired to administer the Choice Program, which was implemented under the 2014 Veterans Choice Act. The program allows veterans across the nation to seek treatment at clinics and hospitals outside the VA system if they face waits of more than 30 days or live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility.

In Alaska, veterans had voiced frustration with the program. At a congressional listening session in Fairbanks last August, a group of about two dozen veterans said the 2014 law had not delivered the improved care it promised. Veterans who testified said they had been met with denials of service, long delays for the VA to pay claims and poor response from Triwest call centers.