In an effort to increase Veterans’ access to care, the VA provides Community Care which enable Veterans to seek medical care outside of a VA facility with approved providers. The use of Community Care is governed by federal laws containing eligibility criteria and other policies specifying when and why it can be used. In most cases, a preapproval for treatment is required for Community Care.
Rural Veterans' access to health care is frequently limited by provider shortages and distance to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health facility. To help address this situation, Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-146)
The Veterans Choice Program (VCP) was established under VACAA as a new, temporary benefit for eligible Veterans. The program allows Veterans to receive health care from community doctors at community health care facilities if they are qualified and if they were enrolled in VA health care 1) on or before Aug. 1, 2014, or 2) are eligible to enroll as a recently discharged combat Veteran within five years of separation.
Veterans may be eligible to receive care from community doctors and facilities if any of these situations apply:
- The Veteran has been (or will be) waiting more than 30 days for an appointment from the next date they and their provider determined should be seen for care
- The Veteran lives more than 40 miles (driving distance) from a VA medical care facility or faces one of several travel burdens
- The Veteran lives 40 miles or less from a VA health care facility but needs to travel by air, boat or ferry, or faces an unusual or excessive burden on travel due to geographical challenges
- The Veteran lives in a state or a United States territory without a full-service medical facility that provides hospital care, emergency services and surgical care rated by the VA Secretary as having a surgical complexity of standard, and the Veteran resides more than 20 miles from such facility
It is important to note:
- Using this program DOES NOT impact Veterans' existing VA health care or any other VA benefit
- Veterans must be authorized by VA to use a Choice Card to access care in the community
- Community providers must be enrolled as a participating provider in the Veterans Choice Program
The Office of Rural Health (ORH) urges eligible Veterans to learn more about the Veterans Choice Program. Visit http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact or call 1-866-606-8198 for additional information.
ORH strongly encourages rural community providers to pursue enrollment as a VCP provider. Visit http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/for_providers.asp for more information.