Veterans have more health care options starting Thursday.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began implementing portions of the MISSION Act, which establishes a new Veterans Community Care Program and ends the Veterans Choice Program.
Veterans may be eligible to receive medical care from a non-VA provider in their local community, using their VA coverage, under certain circumstances.
The new program loosens the Choice Program's restrictions that limited outside care only when a veteran must wait 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility.
Veterans can access private care when they have endured lengthy wait times or when VA medical centers do not offer the services they need.
For primary care, a veteran may now be eligible for community care if the VA is unable to schedule an appointment within 20 days at a VA facility that is no more than a 30-minute average drive.
The new program also includes access to in-network urgent care providers in the community for the treatment of injuries and illnesses that require immediate attention, but are not life-threatening.
Additionally, if the VA determines that a medical service line is not meeting the VA's standards for quality based on specific conditions, veterans may be able to choose to receive care from a community provider.
In most cases, veterans must first receive prior approval from the VA before getting care from a community provider and must meet certain eligibility criteria.