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Originally published Monday, April 9, 2018 at 05:59a.m.

As a disabled veteran, I used the VA healthcare system since I qualified for the Choice Care Card which allows service-connected veterans to receive services from doctors and hospitals within their own geographical areas.

However, doctors and hospitals are reluctant to take this insurance as the VA doesn’t pay in a timely manner – if at all. This card was given to service-connected veterans so they could be seen outside the VA healthcare system.

Unfortunately, the VA unions and staff controls the authorization and billing of services requested and recommended by non-VA doctors and hospitals. Many times these services are denied and the veteran doesn’t receive these services. I’m sure you can see a problem with this.

As taxpayers, we don’t think of the cost to staff and maintain a veterans’ hospital or clinic as compared to the costs for private or non-profit hospitals and clinics. When you think of a VA hospital or clinic, you often think of the great job the VA is doing helping our men and women who have served our great country.

When a non-military person goes to his or her doctor or hospital, they receive a bill for services. If they have insurance, the bill is paid by the insurance company, usually at 80 percent or less of the total cost. In most cases, the hospital or doctors will accept this as full payment.

This is not the case at a VA hospital or clinic where services are billed at 100 percent of the cost. This means that the taxpayer is paying 100 percent of the veteran’s bill.

These funds are used to pay for staffing to include employee related expenses such as retirement, employee healthcare and paid time off. It also includes construction costs and maintenance expenses for all VA buildings.

I don’t care if veterans want to use the VA system for their healthcare. But we know the VA system is an overburdened, understaffed and underfunded system. As such, veterans don’t always receive quality healthcare.

If a veteran could receive medical care from any doctor he or she chooses and the doctors and hospitals would receive payments for services rendered, the VA system would no longer be necessary.

Taxpayers and veterans would both benefit. Instead of paying 100 percent to the VA system, they would pay 80 percent or less to the private sector as is the case with most insurance companies including Medicare. This would translate into billions of dollars in taxpayer savings.