Local veterans outraged by Fort Hood's Direct In Campaign

Posted at 9:54 PM, Apr 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-29 17:40:57-04

Some local veterans said Fort Hood's new Direct In Campaign is forcing them to pay more money out of pocket to see doctors off-post. 

In preparation for the new Carl R. Darnall medical center, officials sent out letters back in October 2015 welcoming retirees and their families to receive medical care on-post.

Chief of Business Operations Jeff Blackwell said because of the new facility, they have more staff and better equipment to provide for veterans they had to previously send elsewhere.

After seeing the letter, Master Sergeant Retired Mariana Shorter said she couldn't believe Fort Hood was forcing her to go back on post to see a doctor 11 years after she retired. 

"My health means more to me than you filling up a hospital you built," Shorter said. "We were perfectly okay with Darnall. Perfectly okay and again at that time, you couldn't accommodate me. You turned me away."

Lieutenant Colonel Retired Jose Torres said he went to his doctors office to deliver the bad news.

"I cannot believe now I'm going to be forced to leave you guys," Torres said. "Y'all have been seeing me for so long and just kind of getting me right."

He said he put in his time and a big reasons people joined the military was the promise of free or affordable healthcare.

"It's not beneficial to all of us," Torres said. At this point it almost seems unfair."

The campaign allows veterans the option to go off or on-post for medical care but...

"If they don't want to, they still have the choice but they would still have to go through standard," Blackwell said.

Shorter said she is currently on Tri-Care Prime where she only pays small deductibles. But Tri-Care standard is a different story.

"Now you're facing a financial burden and you have to pay more out of pocket," Shorter said.

Torres has been seeing his off-post physician for almost 10 years and said he doesn't want to have to go to Darnall just to see a doctor that might get deployed.

"We are looking for something permanent," Torres said. "One day you. Six months later somebody else.I don't know who I'm gonna see in orthopedics now and i gotta start all over again explaining I got a cyst here, I broke my wrist, I got an injury on this elbow. It's insufferable."

Shorter said that was also her biggest issue.

"My body can not afford to explain every time." shorter said. "I see you for six months and he PCSed. Now I have to explain to you? You know my Doctor Dr. Mitchell knows my body better than I do."

Blackwell said with each letter is a form to fill out an appeal by May 7th. He said out of the 4,500 beneficiaries that have received letters thus far, only ten percent requested an appeal.

"We ask that they attach any medical documentation that would be beneficial in us making our decision whether or not to accept the claim or deny it," Blackwell said. "We do value the experience that we have with our providers here and I think that really does benefit our beneficiaries."

Although Shorter plans on requesting an appeal, she said she and her fellow vets shouldn't have to go through the trouble of getting all of the paperwork necessary for one. She said they should have the option to go were they choose without having to empty their pockets.

"I think I deserve that after serving my country for 24 plus years and I know there are a lot of veterans out there that agree with me," Shorter said
"Allow me the opportunity to seek medical assistance that I want and that's best for me. i feel like now you're telling me where to get medical assistance. it's not for my benefit. it's to benefit the fact that you built a military hospital and I got to spend all of this money. but that doesn't have to do anything with my health. There's enough soldiers on Fort hood to fill that hospital up. i guarantee you."

Shorter said if things do not change, she plans to write congress.

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