BOSTON (CBS) – After a wait-time scandal, it was supposed to be a program that helped veterans get access to faster, more convenient access to medical care.
However, several years since implementation, the WBZ-TV I-Team found the Veterans Choice program administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continues to have issues.
Problems include a confusing appointment process, community health care providers not getting paid, and veterans being harassed by bill collectors.
Charles Price Sr. was on the front lines in Italy for some of the most dangerous battles of World War II, fighting with the 36th Infantry Division from Texas and Oklahoma.
Looking back, the Army combat veteran is thankful he somehow survived, making it back home safety to his wife and newborn son.
“Someone was watching over me,” Price told WBZ. “People wondered how I could go through six battles without a scratch.”
However, the 95-year-old recently had to fight a different kind of battle: One with his own government.
“It makes me very angry,” he expressed.
Price was upset because in late 2016, he was having serious health issues. His son, Charles Price III, said his dad would have waited several months to see a doctor at the Bedford VA, where he typically receives all his in-patient care.
“There was urgency because he wasn’t keeping his food down,” Price explained. “We didn’t feel he could wait.”
The VA recommended Price as a candidate for the Choice program, which is designed to let veterans see doctors in the private sector if they have to wait at least 30 days for an appointment. As a result, Price received his treatment at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington.
“As far as we knew, everything should’ve been covered and taken care of,” Price explained.
But months later, a surprise arrived in the mail: a bill for $4,450.62. Even though it said “Veterans Choice” on the invoice, the program had denied payment. As a result, the financial responsibility landed on the shoulders of the 95-year-old veteran.
“I was shocked,” his son told WBZ. “After we availed ourselves of a service they recommended, now they won’t pay? I just didn’t feel that would stand.”
Price unsuccessfully tried to resolve the situation for his dad, and then he decided to contact the I-Team.