VA program promotes treatment choice


When Ken Rainey decided he wanted to pursue proton therapy in lieu of conventional radiation for his throat cancer, he thought navigating his VA insurance would be tricky.

As it turned out, Rainey benefited from a program called Veterans Choice, which allows veterans who have significant wait times for treatment or live at some distance from appropriate treatment facilities to received care at a non-VA site of their choosing.

Rainey, who lives about an hour from Tupelo, Miss., was diagnosed with throat cancer after what he assumed was seasonal allergies persisted until he began spitting up blood and an ear, nose and throat specialist discovered a tumor.

As he made the rounds of specialists, Rainey was shocked to learn that he would need 12 back teeth removed‑“’That radiation will go through your jawbone and kill your teeth,’” Rainey said the oral surgeon told him. The doctor also recommended inserting a feeding tube prior to treatment, as it would render him unable to eat.

“That floored me,” Rainey said.

It also drove him online, searching for treatment options that would do less collateral damage. He discovered Provision, and set up a consult—against his doctor’s advice.

“His own position was that he thought it was still too new,” Rainey said.

But after learning about proton therapy, and Provision’s pencil beam scanning in particular, he was convinced the treatment would allow him to keep his teeth, avoid a feeding tube and cure his cancer.

The Veterans Choice Program let him travel to Knoxville for the treatment, and the VA even provided funds for his stay. Those with VA healthcare can qualify for the program if they 1) have been or will be waiting more than 30 days for VA medical care; 2) the medical treatment (proton therapy) is not offered at the VA or 3) the patient lives more than 40 miles away from a VA medical care facility or has specific issues that make travel difficult, according to the Veterans Administration website.

Rainey completed treatment successfully, and while he experienced some temporary side effects such as sore throat and loss of taste, he kept his teeth and the ability to swallow throughout treatment. He credits Provision Proton Therapy Center for helping him navigate through a challenging process of understanding his benefits and helping take steps to secure coverage for his treatment.

“I could’ve taken the other treatment, but from now on I would have had all those other things to deal with,” Rainey said. “I’m so thankful I found Provision.”

For more information on Veterans Choice, check out the following links: