BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Kern County veterans are now able to seek services and procedures in Bakersfield that, in some cases, previously required trips to Los Angeles.
Nearly 300 doctors at Kern Medical were enrolled in the Veterans Affairs health care network over the summer, making the hospital eligible to treat patients faced with burdensome travel requirements or lengthy wait times at a VA health center.
The Department of Veterans Affairs implemented a program called Veterans Choice in 2014 after a waiting list crisis became a national scandal. It allows vets to go outside the VA hospital and clinic system for treatment. Congress appropriated an additional $2 billion for the program in August.
Not all veterans will qualify, but Kern County Veterans Services Director Dick Taylor said many will benefit.
"It gives them the choice if they live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility that has a primary care physician or if their appointment, they're told by the VA, is going to be longer than 30 days, they can call the Veterans Choice program and find out if they're eligible," he said.
Scott Thygerson, the chief strategy officer for Kern Medical, said there are distinct advantages to staying local for care.
"It's where their support network is," he said. "The facilities are here for follow-up."
Veterans can seek a wide variety of treatments at Kern Medical, ranging from gastrointestinal services, to cardiology and reconstructive plastic surgery.
If you are a veteran with VA medical benefits who would like to learn more, call Triwest at (866) 606-8198.