RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A new program aiming to simplify private health care coverage for veterans and reduce wait and travel times hasn't caught on in the Black Hills region.

The VA Black Hills Health Care System says only about 2 percent of nearly 3,220 eligible veterans have made an appointment through the Choice Card program. The system's former director, Stephen DiStasio, attributes the low participation rate to veterans' preference for VA care.

He tells the Rapid City Journal that many veterans don't mind waiting longer because they would rather work with someone from the VA.

DiStasio says the Choice Card program also might be less attractive since the Black Hills location already had expanded its use of non-VA care.

The VA Black Hills system serves more than 19,330 veterans in portions of South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.

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