• Veterans Choice Program doesn't help vets struggling with old ER bills

    By: Jenna Bourne , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Viewers are helping Action News Jax and News 104.5 WOKV wipe out more than $2 million worth of medical debt for local veterans.

    We partnered with a charity that can buy that debt up for a much lower price than it's actually worth.

    So far, viewers have donated more than $11,000.

    CLICK HERE TO LEARN HOW YOU CAN HELP WIPE OUT VETERANS' MEDICAL DEBT

    That, plus our initial donation, means that more than $2.1 million of medical debt has been wiped away.
    There are thousands of local veterans struggling with medical debt.

    Navy veteran Louis Wilson said he appreciates the Veterans Choice Program, but it does not help him with his medical debt from 2014, shortly before the program began.

    Wilson told Action News Jax he had four emergency room visits in 2014, and four denials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

    “I’m a 65-year-old man. And each one of these cases was an emergency to me,” Wilson said. “I’m on a fixed income and I couldn’t afford to pay it.”

    In all four cases, Wilson said he called the VA first and tried to get an appointment at the Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic. 

    He said the VA told him it would take a month or two to get an appointment.

    “I could not wait,” Wilson said. “They came out with Veterans Choice [Program] to allow you to go to different hospitals. But that doesn’t remedy what they did to me. Still, it’s on my credit and ruining my credit when they should have paid.”

    $6 billion in unpaid emergent care

    Local veterans such as Wilson are the reason Action News Jax is partnering with RIP Medical Debt.

    “We were shocked to learn that there’s over $6 billion worth of unpaid emergent care sitting there that the VA refuses to bankroll,” said RIP Medical Debt co-founder Jerry Ashton.

    In the meantime, Wilson said he was unable to refinance his house because his unpaid ER bills ruined his credit.

    “I think it’s a shame that the veterans have to go through this when we served our country and risked our lives, and then got to come back and fight for medical treatment. It’s a shame,” Wilson said.

    Action News Jax does not know if Wilson will receive a letter saying some of his medical debt has been forgiven; Action News Jax and our charity partner don’t have control over whose debt is purchased.

    We want to keep this going, but we need your help to do it. You can help give local heroes what they deserve here.

    Click here to help Action News Jax and News 104.5 WOKV wipe out veterans' medical debt

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