WASHINGTON (AP) — Far fewer veterans than expected are taking advantage of a new law aimed at making it easier for them to get private health care and avoid the long waits that have plagued Department of Veterans Affairs facilities nationwide.

The VA says only 27,000 veterans have made appointments for private medical care since it started mailing out "Choice Cards" in November.

The number is so small that VA Secretary Robert McDonald wants authority to redirect some of the $10 billion Congress allocated for the program to boost care for veterans at the VA's 970 hospitals and clinics.

Members of Congress insist the VA is the problem. They are urging the department to do a better job promoting the choice program, a key part of a VA overhaul approved last year.

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