New healthcare options could soon open for veterans

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - Faster treatment for our nation's heroes could just be around the corner.

A bill, which gives healthcare choices to veterans, passed both houses at the federal level.

It's a $10 billion dollar change. If signed into law, it would last for three years or the extent of its funding.

Those billions of dollars would allow some veterans to choose where they seek medical treatment.

"Back in January of 2011, I started having pain in my lower abdominal area," Barry Coates said.

Barry Coates is a veteran who served during Desert Storm.

Due to a back injury, he was released from the armed forces in 1991.

In 2011, Coates started having problems with his health and the Veterans Administration.

"In January 2011 I started having pain in the lower abdominal area," Coates said.

Coates, who is from McBee, went to the VA's Office to find out what was causing his pain.

After a series of doctors visits, one-year later in January 2012 he finally was able to see a specialist who diagnosed him with stage four colon cancer, he immediately underwent surgery and is still to this day getting chemo treatments.

"About three months ago, I started going to MUSC in Charleston for my cancer treatment and chemo treatment now," he said.

Congressman Tom Rice supports this bill and he said what Coates had to go through is simply unfair.

"When he finally got his test he had advanced cancer and it nearly cost him his life," said Congressman Tom Rice.

This new bill, the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 allows for veterans to get medical service faster.

"The average wait time at VA facility is 53 days the time in a private physician is three days," Rice said.

The bill states that any veterans who live 40 miles outside of the nearest VA medical facility would be able to go to a regular doctor nearest them.

Also, any veterans who are not able to get an appointment at their local VA medical center within 30 days will be allowed to go to a regular doctor.

Coates said when this bill is signed by the president and put into law he will be able to get his chemo treatment's closer to his home in McBee instead of driving to MUSC in Charleston.

The bill still needs the president's signature to become law.

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