Veterans now have more private health care options, access to urgent care under MISSION Act

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.