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A Veteran of Desert storm,  who lives in Moorhead, says an added layer of Red Tape in the V-A System is creating headaches for her and fellow Veterans.

The "Veterans Choice Program" comes out of firestorm created when veterans had long wait lists and horrible customer service nationwide.

But with a private contractor running the program for the V-A there are kinks that are raising many people's blood pressure.

Loretta Wickie is not asking for much. The retired member of the ND Air Guard's Happy Hooligans, Loretta still has checkups and appointments following breast cancer.

But the veteran of Desert Storm

Loretta: “Made my blood pressure go up.”

has endured her share of government bureaucracy lately.

Loretta: “Took me eleven phone calls to get my mammograms scheduled.”

While trying to get appointments for her mammogram and therapy for lymphedema in her arm from breast cancer, she has learned all about the VA's  Veterans Choice program, which the VA farms out to a contractor to administer.

Cheryl Andersen/Fargo VA Clinical Care: “It takes about 5 or 6 business days, which is the expectation of the contractor is,  to get something scheduled, but if it is something urgent, we will arrange and take care of the veteran and not expect a third party to assist us with that.” 

Thru Veterans Choice, a vet can go to Sanford or Essentia, if the VA cannot get them in soon enough to see a specialist of some kind. Or if the service is not offered here in Fargo. But the wait times on the phone, the failed promises of appointments made, are driving Loretta nuts.

 Loretta: “I was on the phone, 28 minutes Friday, and if I was 80 years old and had arthritis, and no speaker phone, i would be so tired of switching phones.”

 And so the local VA acts as a liaison between  the private contractor and the VA patient, trying to get that patient an appointment at  a local clinic.

 Loretta's complaint is not with the Fargo VA. in fact she says staff here has gone out of their way to help her. It is the other layers of red tape and the contractor company that seem to be holding up her getting the health care, this country promised to deliver to vets.

Loretta also says that the contractor for "Choice Care" mistakenly faxed her health care, social security number and other information to the wrong number, meaning someone else has that now.

By Kevin Wallevand - WDAY

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