The VA Choice Program is supposed to allow veterans access to care outside the agency, but for one doctor, the program has been nothing short of a nightmare, as her patients have almost been totally abandoned by the system.
The VA has refused to process reauthorizations for care outside the department by simply failing to respond to communications, or providing non-answers, according to Dr. Kathy Platoni, a retired Colonel, who spoke to The Daily Caller News Foundation. And for Platoni, this bureaucratic muddle has also left her chasing payments that either never seem to come, or come with much prodding months after they’re due, jeopardizing her ability to treat her patients.
One of those patients, Michael Engle, who suffers from PTSD, was set to lose his authorization for treatment outside the VA on July 15. Frustrated, Platoni asked Engle to contact his congressman because of the Dayton VA’s failure to budge on his treatment reauthorization. But despite calls from both Dr. Platoni and Engle to the congressman’s case manager, no one picked up on the other line.
At almost the last minute, the VA authorized his treatment to continue until August 31. Whether the VA will cooperate to extend that treatment again remains to be seen.
For some patients, like Engle, Platoni receives payment directly from the VA. For others through the VA Choice Program, she receives payment from Health Net, an insurance provider. She’s also had trouble with Health Net.
As of July 11, Platoni has received two payments from Health Net that were more than three months overdue. Health Net promised that several payments would be included in the last check, yet only two were issued.
Now, Platoni faces a dilemma: keep treating vets without getting paid, or quit treating vets and risk them befalling serious harm.
She told The DCNF that she intends to keep treating all of her patients pro bono.
“I have every confidence that all in receipt of this e-mail receive a paycheck every two weeks,” Platoni wrote to the Dayton medical center director Glenn Costie in an email protesting the VA’s poor performance. “I am also a veteran of 35 years of commissioned military service. That both my patients and I continue to be treated this way is unconscionable.”
Platoni has had the exact same problems with other patients aside from Engle. One of her other patients had to contact GOP Rep. Michael Turner and file a formal complaint to get treatment reauthorization at the VA. Due to the patient’s efforts and constant contact with Turner’s office, authorization was finally granted.
Platoni was recently informed that she’s supposed to request reauthorization through Health Net, but the insurance provider has been under congressional investigation since March for failing to pay doctors.
In other words, the problem with using Health Net is that Health Net often doesn’t pay out.
The Dayton VA did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation on why receiving payment and getting care reauthorizations processed is seemingly an impossible feat.
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