A small hospital in Mineral County has given voice to frustrations by area veterans over confusion and delays in using the new 'Choice Cards' touted at a town hall meeting in Missoula on January 14.

Mineral Regional Health Center Public Information Officer Monte Turner said Mineral County has the highest number of veterans per capita in the state, and he has been receiving numerous calls from veterans asking when they can use their 'Choice Card' at his facility.

"The Choice Card is a program set up by the VA healthcare system," Turner said. "The VA has told veterans if they live more than 40 miles away from a registered VA health center, or if it's going to take more than 30 days for them to see a VA doctor, then these cards can be used at civilian, or private heath care facilities such here in Superior at Mineral Regional Health Center."

Turner said his region is packed with veterans.

"We've got 4,000 people that live out here in Mineral County, and 11 percent of them are veterans," he said. "It's about 60 miles from Superior to Missoula, so these vets who have received the Choice Card are calling up and saying 'I want to get authorization to come and see one of your providers', and I'm saying  'I'm sorry, we can't, because the VA has not certified us yet as a satellite provider.' We have to submit the paperwork, which we have done, and now they're saying it's going to be at least another 90 days for us to receive certification, so that we can start seeing these veterans."

Turner said he contacted Enrollment Coordinator Todd Dunlap at the VA office in Helena regarding the confusion and received the following reply via email.

"Hey Monte,

I did get a response back from Healthnet with the exact same answer. Unfortunately this is out of my hands and out of my control. I would recommend to continue to hound them until a more appropriate resolution is presented. I would also send this to congressional leadership in the Missoula area. That leadership needs to hear the frustrations of this program."

KGVO News has been in contact with Montana Senior Senator Jon Tester's office in Washington, D.C., and was told by an aide that the senator would be notified about the continued delays regarding the Choice Cards. The aide said she would try to get Senator Tester to return a phone call to KGVO News for a comment, as soon as possible.

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