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VA changes medical appointment program

The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced changes to its Veterans Choice Program which is intended to address streamlining medical care of veterans. Timely healthcare has become one of the prominent veterans' issues.

This program was established in 2014 to allow veterans receive medical care in their own community if they had to wait over 30 days for medical care, travel over 40 miles for this care or face certain travel burdens. The VA has scheduled over 400,000 medical appointments under this program since it began in November 2014.

The VA updated the program's eligibility requirements. In addition to being enrolled in the VA health care system, a veteran has to meet at least one other requirement.

A veteran is also eligible by living in a state, such as Alaska, or U.S. territory without a full-service VA facility. Additionally, a VA medical facility has to inform the patient that an appointment for care cannot be scheduled within 30 days from the time that veteran wishes to be seen or from the date that their physician determines that an appointment is needed.

Another qualification is that the veteran lives over 40 miles driving distance from the closest VA medical facility staffed with a full-time medical doctor. Or, the patient has to travel by air, boat or ferry to the closest VA medical facility.

An enrolled veteran is also qualified by facing an unusual or excessive burden while traveling to the nearest VA medical facility. These include geographic problems, environmental factors, a medical condition, frequent or complex care and whether an attendant is needed for treatment.

The older criteria was more limited. First, the veteran had to be enrolled in VA health care by Aug. 1, 2014. Or, veterans had to experience unusual or excessive burden eligibility because of geographical challenges, environmental issues or medical condition impacting their ability to travel. Finally, the veteran lived more than 40 driving distance from the nearest VA medical facility.

Seeking needed or long-term medical care and treatment of veterans' injuries can be delayed and fraught with unnecessary difficulty. Veterans should seek prompt legal assistance to help assure that their rights to treatment is assured.

Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "VA makes changes to Veterans Choice Program," Accessed Dec. 14, 2015

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