The AHA today urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve the Veterans Choice Program to address “roadblocks” to veterans’ access to care and broader participation by non-VA providers. “While we understand that the VA had an extraordinarily short timeframe in which to implement the program, we have serious concerns about its execution,” AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack said in comments submitted to the department. “Our members, as well as veterans, have faced many roadblocks when attempting to provide and access care under the program. These roadblocks have resulted in a very small number of veterans being able to access the program – only about 27,000 of the 9 million veterans who depend on the VA for health care.” Among other concerns, AHA said the VA’s interpretation of the requirement that some participants live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA facility “unreasonably restricts many veterans’ ability to access care.” It also urged the department to interpret the alternative “geographical challenges” standard much more broadly; commit to paying non-VA hospitals in a timely manner; and allow hospitals to contract directly with their local VA facilities.