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San Diego Company Aims To Curb VA Wait Times

TriWest Health Alliance Sr. Vice President Julie Townsend addresses the crowd of employees on the opening day on their new vet center, Sept. 8, 2015.

TriWest Health Alliance opened its doors in San Diego. The company is a part of a network of private companies hired by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help veterans setup appointments with doctors and hospitals outside the VA system.

A new center opened in San Diego to help vets find care outside the VA. The opening comes a little more than a year after Congress created the Veterans Choice Program to help cut long wait times.

TriWest Healthcare Alliance made the announcement before its staff of 250 people at its operations center in Rancho Bernardo on Tuesday. TriWest is operating in 28 states. It is one of the companies that have a contract with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to match veterans with private doctors and facilities when they are having problems accessing care through the VA.

Julie Townsend, senior vice president, said the company isn’t just trying to end the VA’s notorious backlog. The company believes it can have a long-term relationship with the VA, even as the overall backlog declines.

“There’s always areas where they don’t have the capability inside the VA so they have to buy it from outside for their veterans,” she said. “Or they have capacity problems because maybe they’ve lost a provider. Maybe there is a surge in demand.”

It took a while for the VA to work through the bureaucracy to set up Veterans Choice, Townsend said. Congress created the program under a three-year pilot program in 2014. She said in recent months they have seen a steady increase in the number of requests from veterans to see doctors outside the VA system.

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